Through a statement released in New York, the Associated Press (AP) news agency has expressed its dismay at the demolition of the building that housed its headquarters in Gaza City, where a dozen informants and collaborators were when they received the order to evacuate the 12-story tower. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza from today,” lamented the president of the agency, Gary Pruitt. The Qatari television channel Al Jazeera, which occupied other offices in the building, has reacted in similar terms. The condemnatory reactions of the media and international trade associations collide with the silence in this regard from the State Department, although at noon this Saturday, local time (six hours more in mainland Spain), the White House briefly ruled, through a tweet from its spokesperson, Jen Psaki, recalling the importance of ensuring the safety of the press.
“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that guaranteeing the safety of journalists and independent media is a primary responsibility,” tweeted Psaki, while minutes later Antony Blinken, head of the State Department, published a message on the social network denouncing “the atrocities ”in the Ethiopian region of Tigray. Not a word about the bombing of the AP headquarters and Al Jazeera, which, according to some analysts, demonstrates the extreme caution that guides the Joe Biden Administration’s steps in this crisis. Washington’s reluctance to get involved in the spiral of violence has been notorious in recent days, to the point of stopping a statement at the UN Security Council.
Biden, who this week underlined Washington’s “unwavering support” for “Israel’s legitimate right to security and defense,” spoke by phone today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who justified the attack by ensuring that the evacuation of journalists shows that Israel does not want to harm civilians – and, for the first time since the start of the crisis, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Biden is the target of criticism from his coreligionists, led by the only congresswoman of Palestinian origin, Rashida Tlaib. “Israel is attacking the media so that the world cannot see its war crimes, led by the apartheid in chief, [Benjamín] Netanyahu, ”Tlaib said. According to the congresswoman, this Saturday’s attack is due to the attempt that “the world cannot see how the Palestinians are massacred.” Also important analysts such as Nicholas Kristof, of the newspaper The New York Times, they have raised their voices remembering in a tough opinion box published on Wednesday how US taxpayer taxes pay for the bombs that attack Gaza, and calling the attitude of the Democratic Administration “timid and constricted.”
If the American diplomacy moves with lead feet, the media affected by the attack have not spared criticism. The head of AP has shown his indignation. “We are shocked and horrified. They have long known the location of our office and knew that the journalists were there. We were warned that the building would be affected. We are requesting information from the Israeli Government and in contact with the US State Department to try to find out more, ”Pruitt said.
A dozen journalists and collaborators of the agency were inside when they received the evacuation order, “and fortunately they were able to leave it in time”, but “the evolution [del conflicto] it is especially disturbing. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what has happened today, ”concludes the AP official.
“This channel is not going to be muted. Al Jazeera is not going to shut up ”, said on the air, with a broken voice, a presenter of the English channel of Qatari television. “We can guarantee that we will continue to report,” he added, according to the Bloomberg agency. The chain, which has defined the attack as a “clear act to prevent the sacred task of informing the world” of what is happening in the Strip, has stated in a statement its intention that the Israeli government “take responsibility for its actions.”
The attack on the headquarters of AP and Al Jazeera is not the first that this week targets and reaches the media and informants in Israel and Gaza. The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organization on Friday denounced the destruction of 21 media outlets and a balance of at least 15 Palestinian journalists injured since May 7, between the clashes in East Jerusalem and the bombings in the Gaza Strip. “After Hamas fired rockets into Jerusalem, Israeli airstrikes in the early morning of May 12 destroyed the Al Jawhara Tower, a 10-story building in Gaza City that housed 14 media outlets, including the newspaper Palestine Daily News and the pan-Arab television channel Al Araby ”, has denounced RSF this week. The office of the local correspondent of the Efe agency was also affected.
That same day, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the Al Shorouk tower in the populous city, a 14-story building that housed seven media outlets, including the Al Aqsa radio and television station, RSF adds. The Israeli Armed Forces said they were “attacking Hamas arsenals hidden within civilian buildings in Gaza,” the organization’s statement concludes, not without recalling that Israel ranks 86th out of 180 in the world ranking of press freedom in 2021.
The arrival of the US special envoy, Hady Amro – who anticipated a trip scheduled for next week on Friday – has coincided with the worst day of violence since hostilities broke out on Monday. On the eve of a meeting of the UN Security Council, this Sunday, several times delayed by the United States, the task of Amro, undersecretary in charge of Israel and Palestinian Affairs in the State Department, seems difficult, given that the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians have long been deadlocked. This Saturday he has scheduled meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives. Washington’s attempt to involve its regional allies – Egypt and Qatar at the helm – in forging a negotiated solution, by declaring a ceasefire, appears doomed, as, according to a senior Egyptian official, Israel it has rejected a proposal from Cairo for a year-long truce. An initiative that, according to this source, Hamas, which governs de facto the Gaza Strip would have accepted.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.