Sun | Jun 20, 2021

AP’s top editor calls for probe into Israeli airstrike

Published:Sunday | May 16, 2021 | 5:33 PMThe Associated Press
Workers clear rubble from a building, which was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike yesterday. The building had housed The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets, in Gaza City, earlier today (AP photo).

The Associated Press' (AP) top editor today called for an independent investigation into the Israeli air strike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media. She says the public deserves to know the facts. 

Sally Buzbee, AP's executive editor, said the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which levelled the 12-story al-Jalaa tower. 

The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was compiling evidence for the US, but declined to commit to providing it within the next two days. 

“We're in the middle of fighting,” Conricus said Sunday. “That's in process and I'm sure in due time that information will be presented.”

Buzbee said the AP has had offices in al-Jalaa tower for 15 years and never was informed or had any indication that Hamas might be in the building. She said the facts must be laid out. 

“We are in a conflict situation,” Buzbee said. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don't know what that evidence is.”

“We think it's appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday — an independent investigation," she added. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday repeated Israel's claim that the building housed an intelligence office of Hamas. Asked if he had relayed supporting evidence of that in a call with President Joe Biden yesterday, Netanyahu said “we pass it through our intelligence people.” 

Buzbee said the AP journalists were “rattled” after the air strike, but are doing fine and reporting the news. She expressed concern about the impact on news coverage. 

“This does impact the world's right to know what is happening on both sides of the conflict in real time,” she said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone yesterday with AP's president and CEO, Gary Pruitt. The State Department said Blinken offered “his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organisations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones."

Buzbee and Conricus spoke on CNN's “Reliable Sources” and Netanyahu was on CBS' “Face the Nation.”

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