Report: Israel army did not know Gaza building held foreign media, but continued strike after finding out

Smoke rises after Israeli forces destroyed a building in Gaza City where Al-Jazeera, Associated Press had their offices (Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  November 8, 2021

The Israeli military did not know that a building in the Gaza Strip contained foreign media outlets before it was destroyed in the conflict in May, but did not cancel the strike once they found out, a report has revealed.

The Al-Jalaa building was destroyed by an Israeli strike in the major assault on Gaza on 15 May, drawing a flurry of criticism against the occupation state’s targeting of infrastructure hosting media outlets and civilians. Israel has long justified such attacks as targeting sites which it alleges Hamas uses.

In a report by the Israeli news outlet Haaretz, however, it is revealed that the Israeli military had no knowledge that Associated Press and Al-Jazeera had offices in the building prior to the strike. It found out the media outlets were in the building only after carrying out the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure, in which a small missile attacks to warn inhabitants before the final strike.

Citing anonymous sources involved in the event, the paper revealed that the foreign journalists inside informed their Israeli colleagues and defence officials of what was happening, prompting several of those officials to try to prevent the strike.

Despite those efforts, and after repeated calls to the building’s inhabitants to evacuate, the Israeli military’s senior officers ordered the strike to continue on the grounds that Hamas was deliberately using the journalists and outlets as human shields.

Following the strike and the ensuing outcry, the military continued with that stance, insisting that Hamas “deliberately locates its military assets in the heart of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population. We’ve double-checked and are 100 percent certain that there were Hamas military assets in this communications building.”

Significant criticism of the strike also came from the United States and, more recently, from a former general of the Israeli military, lamenting the incident especially as a mistake and an impact on public relations. One of Haaretz’s sources said that, while “the attack could have been stopped at several points,” Israeli politicians and senior military officers “were looking for a victory picture.”

As they were both more concerned with the Hamas rockets from Gaza and the possibility of Hamas winning the propaganda war, they wanted to conduct the strike and show the public a successful attack on Hamas. Another of the sources stated that they “didn’t understand the implications of this incident and released the pictures of the building’s ruins as a public relations victory.”