Israel on Saturday demolished a high-rise building in Gaza housing the offices of international media organisations and residential apartments, Al Jazeera reported.
The offices hit by the air strike included those belonging to Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. Casualties in the bombing were not immediately clear. The reason why the building was attacked is also unclear.
The owner of the al-Jalaa building had received prior warning about the strike from the Israeli military, the AP reported. The news agency’s staff vacated the building immediately. Al-Jazeera did a live broadcast of the airstrike.
Al Jazeera journalist Safwat al-Kahlout said he and his colleagues started collecting equipment from the office, especially the cameras. He has worked at the building for 11 years.
“I have been covering lots of events from this building,” the journalist was quoted as saying by the television channel. “We have lots of good memories with our colleagues”.
AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said they were seeking information from the Israeli government and were engaged with the US State Department. “This is an incredibly disturbing development,” he said in a statement. “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”
At least 139 people, including children, have been killed in Gaza since Israeli attacks began earlier this week, the AP reported. Israeli military said the airstrikes were in retaliation for the Palestinian militant group Hamas firing rockets into Israel.
The violence that erupted on Monday night followed weeks-long tensions in Jerusalem, during which Israeli police attacked Palestinian protesters near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
At the heart of the conflict is an Israeli Supreme Court hearing, which was due on May 10, in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.
As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.
Multiple countries have condemned the violence. India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations TS Tirumurti said New Delhi was deeply concerned about the clashes and violence in Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount and the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods. India called on both sides to avoid changing the status-quo on the ground.