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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

Aug 18, 2021 - World

Israeli PM Bennett to visit Biden in midst of Afghanistan crisis

Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's first visit to the White House will come with President Biden attempting to manage the worst foreign policy crisis of his presidency.

Why it matters: Bennett will visit next Thursday, the White House confirmed, which will likely make him the first world leader to meet Biden during his "Saigon moment."

Aug 18, 2021 - World

Dispute with Poland on Holocaust shows Israel's shift on EU relations

Netanyahu (R) in 2019 with Polish President Andrzej Duda (C) and then-Vice President Mike Pence. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

The diplomatic crisis over a Polish law limiting the ability to introduce claims to property confiscated during World War II is a manifestation of the shift in Israeli policy toward Europe under the new government.

Why it matters: The bill will mostly impact Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and it's seen by the Israeli government and the Biden administration as another step by Poland's government to rewrite the country's history around the Holocaust.

Biden denies Afghanistan will look the same 20 years after 9/11

President Biden on Thursday rejected the notion that Afghanistan will look the same on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as it did when the Taliban first ruled, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "There was a guy named Osama bin Laden still alive and well."

Why it matters: In defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Biden has repeatedly stressed that the original purpose of the 2001 invasion was to dismantle al-Qaeda and deny the terrorists a safe haven to launch another attack against the U.S.