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Israel shares classified intelligence with US on media high-rise in Gaza

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tell US counterpart, IDF operation "will continue to the end of achieving long-term quiet"

Coverage of IDF strike on Al Jazeera building in Gaza on May 15, 2021 (Photo: screenshot Twitter)

Israel shared classified intelligence with the United States today regarding Hamas military operations taking place in a building that also housed foreign media outlets, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The Gaza high-rise was leveled on Saturday in an Israeli airstrike. The Al Jala building was home to the local offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, who are now calling for an investigation into the strike. No journalists were reported injured in the incident.

“We did seek further information from Israel on this question,” Blinken said. “It's my understanding that we've received some further information through intelligence channels, and it's not something I can comment on.”

Unnamed Israeli officials also confirmed that its defense department delivered classified intelligence to the Pentagon regarding the situation.

Nevertheless, media groups condemned the attack. AP President Gary Pruitt called for an independent investigation into the strike and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee claimed the AP was never informed nor had any idea that Hamas used the same building.

But a former AP reporter based in Jerusalem, Matti Friedman, wrote an extensive piece in The Atlantic in 2014 in which he cited several instances when “Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff – and the AP wouldn’t report it.”

“The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby – and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff – and the AP wouldn’t report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)

“(Paul) Colford, the AP spokesman, confirmed that armed militants entered the AP’s Gaza office in the early days of the war to complain about a photo showing the location of a rocket launch, though he said that Hamas claimed that the men ‘did not represent the group.’ The AP does not report many interactions with militias, armies, thugs or governments,’ he wrote. ‘These incidents are part of the challenge of getting out the news – and not themselves news.’”

The IDF accused Hamas of using the media as human shields. Israeli military spokesman Hidai Zilberman said that Hamas military intelligence offices were in the same building, and that is why Israel brought it down.

“These are people tasked with collecting information about IDF combat troops and the southern (Israeli) communities, in order to carry out all the attacks,” Zilberman said in justifying the attack on the building. “These are the people who directed the terrorist attacks on the communities of the Gaza periphery.”

Israel has struck hundreds of buildings in the Gaza Strip in response to nine days of rocket attacks by Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave.

Today, Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that Israel's Operation Guardian of the Walls will continue until Hamas is disabled for the long term.

"The IDF’s military campaign will continue to the end of achieving long-term quiet,” Gantz said.

This comes as pressure ramps up on both Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that U.S. President Joe Biden wants “to see an end to the violence on the ground and to the suffering of the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

“He's been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public…We see it as an ongoing behind the scenes discussion with our partners in Israel, with the Palestinian leader, with leaders in the region about how we can bring an end to the conflict.”

“We continue to believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. There've been more than 3,000 rocket attacks from Hamas, and more overnight into Israel. Civilians have lost their lives,” Psaki continued. “Palestinian civilians have also lost their lives. And our goal is to get to the end of this conflict. We're going to evaluate day by day with the right approaches.”

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Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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