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Israeli Strike Destroys Media Building 05/15 10:11

   An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building 
in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media 
outlets. AP's president said the agency was "shocked and horrified" at the 
strike.

   GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and 
destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The 
Associated Press and other media outlets. AP's president said the agency was 
"shocked and horrified" at the strike.

   AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building after the 
military telephoned a warning that the strike was imminent within an hour. 
Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant 
cloud of dust.

   For 15 years, the AP's top-floor office and roof terrace were a prime 
location for covering Israel's conflicts with Gaza's Hamas rulers, including 
wars in 2009 and 2014. The news agency's camera offered 24-hour live shots as 
militants' rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the 
city and its surrounding area this week.

   "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what 
happened today," AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. "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."

   "This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a 
terrible loss of life," he said, adding that the AP was seeking information 
from the Israeli government and was engaged with the U.S. State Department to 
learn more.

   The building also housed the offices of Qatari-run Al-Jazeera TV, as well as 
residential apartments. The Israeli military said it targeted the building 
because it contained assets of Hamas intelligence agencies, which it said were 
using media offices as "human shields." It did not provide evidence for the 
claims.

   Hours earlier, another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp 
killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, the 
deadliest single strike of the current conflict.

   A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the high-rise building's owner, 
Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer for 
permission to wait 10 minutes so journalists could to go inside the building to 
retrieve valuable equipment before it was bombed.

   "All I'm asking is to let four people... to go inside and get their 
cameras," he said. "We respect your wishes. We will not do it if you don't 
allow it, but give us 10 minutes."

   The officer on the other end of the phone rejected the request, at which 
point Mahdi says: "You have destroyed our life's work, memories, life. I will 
hang up. Do what you want. There is a God."

   Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which 
has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been 
killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been 
killed, including a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of 
Tel Aviv, on Saturday.

   The latest outburst of violence started in Jerusalem and spread across the 
region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities 
of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the 
occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

   The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian "intifada," or 
uprising, when peace talks have not taken place in years. Palestinians on 
Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the 
estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was 
now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the 
possibility of even more unrest.

   U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington's efforts to 
de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. 
But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas 
rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity 
to discuss the negotiations.

   The strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon, 
after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the 
building would be hit. A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the building's 
owner, Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence 
officer to wait 10 minutes to allow journalists to go inside the building to 
retrieve valuable equipment before it is bombed.

   "All I'm asking is to let four people ... to go inside and get their 
cameras," he says. "We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don't 
allow it, but give us 10 minutes." When the officer rejected the request, Mahdi 
said, "You have destroyed our life's work, memories, life. I will hang up, do 
what you want. There is a God."

   Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar's government, broadcast the 
airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

   "This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced," an 
on-air anchorwoman from Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. 
"We can guarantee you that right now."

   The bombardment earlier Saturday struck a three-story house in Gaza City's 
Shati refugee camp, killing eight children aged 14 and under and two women from 
an extended family.

   Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to 
celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with her brother's wife and three of their 
children. All were killed instantly, he said, except the olnly known survivor, 
his 5-month-old son Omar. Another son, 11-year-old Yahya, was missing.

   Children's toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as 
well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

   "There was no warning," said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same 
building. "You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?" he said, 
addressing Israel. "Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong 
people!"

   The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the 
airstrike.

   A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house 
and sent thousands fleeing to U.N.-run shelters. The military said the 
operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the 
course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by 
Hamas.

   Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to 
minimize collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes 
in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not 
"feasible this time."

   Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed 
inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 
20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.

   Gaza's infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an 
Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed 
signs of breaking down further, compounding residents' misery. The territory's 
sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.

   The U.N. said Gazans are already enduring daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and 
at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely 
populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the 
descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

   The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and 
Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community 
fighting in the streets and trashing each other's property.

   Late on Friday, someone threw a firebomb at an Arab family's home in the 
Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, striking two children. A 12-year-old boy was in 
moderate condition with burns on his upper body and a 10-year-old girl was 
treated for a head injury, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.

   The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian 
protests against attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian 
families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a 
frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and 
Jews.

   Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to 
present itself as the champion of the protesters.

   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will "pay a very 
heavy price" for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the 
frontier. U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while 
saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.

   Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to 
the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defenses, but 
they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused 
disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and 
Jerusalem.

 
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