The White House on Saturday is “communicating” with the Israeli government to express its concern after Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip demolished a civilian building hosting several news organizations including the Associated Press.
“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Twitter post Saturday morning.
Israeli aircraft dropped more bombs in Gaza City Saturday, destroying a highrise building housing news organizations including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, The Hill reported.
In a Facebook post, the Israeli Air Force said that the building also housed military assets belonging to the Hamas terror organization.
“The building contained civilian media offices, which the Hamas terror organization hides behind and uses as human shields,” the post said. “The Hamas terror organization deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.”
The post also said that the inhabitants in the building were warned ahead of time and given “sufficient time” to evacuate the site.
Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement that “a dozen” AP staffers and freelancers were in the building before the bombing.
“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” his statement said. “They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit. This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life.”
He said the organization is engaged with the U.S. State Department and trying to find out more information from the Israeli government about the strike.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” he said in the statement.
The most recent salvo continues hostilities between Israel and Palestinian settlements in the Gaza Strip.
CNN reported this week that some 2,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Monday and Israel has retaliated with its own series of bombings into the strip, killing 10 on Saturday including eight children.
More than 135 Palestinians have been killed and another 1,000 wounded in the violence, The Hill reported.
Earlier this week the U.S. State Department called for restraint on both sides after violence erupted in the region during the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Joel Simon, told The Hill that the recent strike will hamper the ability of reporters to let the world know what is happening in the region.
“Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it,” he said regarding the Israeli military.
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