Israel has targeted a high-rise building in Gaza on Saturday, May 15 with airstrikes, destroying the offices of U.S.-based Associated Press (AP) and Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, Reuters reported.
According to the Israel military, the 12-storey building was also used by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza Strip, where around two million Palestinians live.
Israel said it was a legitimate military target as it contained Hamas military offices.
It has often cited a Hamas presence as justification for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings.
Occupants of the building were ordered by the Israeli army to evacuate about an hour earlier.
After providing advance warning to civilians & time to evacuate, IDF fighter jets struck a multi-story building containing Hamas military intelligence assets.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 15, 2021
The building contained civilian media offices, which Hamas hides behind and deliberately uses as human shields. pic.twitter.com/zeDjEquePD
The bombing comes on the sixth consecutive day of fighting between Israel and Hamas, sparking fears of an all-out war.
AP and Al Jazeera condemned the attack
In a statement, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt expressed his shock and horror that the Israeli military would target the building despite long knowing the location of AP's bureau and other news organisations in Gaza.
"We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life," he said.
"AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time."
The United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that attacks carried out by both sides may be deemed as "serious violations of international humanitarian law", NBC News reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised speech on Saturday evening that the attacks "will continue as long as it is required", AP reported.
Acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network, Mostefa Souag, called the strike a "war crime" that aims to "silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza".
The Washington-based National Press Club said in a statement that Saturday's airstrike of the Gaza tower followed "bombing by Israeli warplanes of two other buildings housing more than a dozen media outlets" on May 11 and 12.
It said "this trend prompts the question of whether Israeli forces are attacking these facilities to impair independent and accurate coverage of the conflict".
Palestinians said at least 145 people have been killed since the conflict began on Monday, May 10, while Israel reported 10 dead, according to Reuters.
The chaos have prompted protests in the West Bank, which was largely occupied by Israeli forces, and stoked violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens.
Top image by Nidal Alwaheidi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)