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A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

The Associated Press: "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. They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there," said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt.

  • "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today," he added.
  • "The Associated Press office is the only place in Gaza City I feel somewhat safe," said Fares Akram, AP’s correspondent in Gaza since 2014.

Al Jazeera: "Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the bombing and destruction of its offices by the Israeli military in Gaza and views this as a clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground," the outlet said in a statement.

  • "The destruction of Al Jazeera offices and that of other media organizations in al-Jalaa tower in Gaza is a blatant violation of human rights and is internationally considered a war crime," said Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network.
  • Al Jazeera reporter Safwat al-Kahlout said, "I have been working here for 11 years. I have been covering many events from this building, we have lived personal professional experiences now everything, in two seconds, just vanished.”

Committee to Protect Journalists: "This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.

  • "Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it."

Reporters Without Borders: "Media equipments and installations constitute civilian objects and shall be protected," said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders.

  • "The fact that the building would have been used for shielding by Hamas or other combatants doesn't allow turning the media into military objectives, that is a war crime," he added.

The big picture: The airstrike came nearly an hour after Israel's military warned that the building would be attacked.

  • Israel said it was in retaliation for the rocket attack on Tel Aviv earlier Saturday that killed at least one Israeli civilian, per Axios' Barak Ravid.
  • The latest fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday following violence in Jerusalem over the planned evictions of six Palestinian families to make way for Israeli settlers.
  • At least 14o Palestinians in Gaza and nearly a dozen in the occupied West Bank have been killed since Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people in Israel have been killed.
  • Of note: CPJ on Thursday condemned the attacks on other buildings in Gaza that also housed international and local media offices.

Go deeper...

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comments from press freedom groups.

Go deeper

May 15, 2021 - World

Israeli airstrike levels high-rise building that housed media offices in Gaza

Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 15. Photo: SAID KHATIB / Getty Images

An Israeli airstrike on Saturday flattened a high-rise building housing media offices for Al Jazeera, the AP and others in the Gaza Strip.

Driving the news: The attack came nearly an hour after the Israeli military warned the building's owner that it was going to bombed and asked for it to be evacuated.

Updated May 15, 2021 - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated May 20, 2021 - World

UN rights chief: Crisis in Gaza, Israel "has deteriorated at alarming rate"

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in Geneva in December 2020. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Saturday called for a de-escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas, warning that the situation "has deteriorated at an alarming rate."

Why it matters: Bachelet said that actions carried out by both the Israeli military and Palestinian militants may amount to violations of international humanitarian law and therefore may be considered war crimes.