Intense Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Saturday killed eight young cousins who had gathered to celebrate Eid with their mothers and destroyed the high-rise tower that housed the Associated Press, the lead news agency of his biggest ally.
Mohammed Haddidi’s wife and their five children were inside the house when it was bombed, and only five-month-old Omar was pulled alive from the rubble. Rescuers searched for survivors through piles of broken concrete splattered with toys, a Monopoly board game and Christmas food prepared for a meal that was never enjoyed.
“My wife had gone to visit her brother, and since the children enjoyed playing with their cousins, they asked to spend the night and she agreed,” he told the Observer. Those childhood games would doom almost everyone.
The airstrike that killed Haddidi’s family came just hours before the daytime demolition of the al Jalaa tower, which housed media offices such as Al Jazeera, AP and AFP. AP described the missile attacks, which were broadcast live on television as “the last step of the military to silence the reports from the territory”, and warned that “the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza” because of that.
Saturday, the sixth day of clashes between Israel and Hamas militants, was also Nakba (Catastrophe) Day. This commemorates the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled or fled their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war that surrounded its creation.
For a week, the conflict has turned into the most intense exchanges of gunfire since the 2014 Gaza war, exacerbated by unrest in the occupied West Bank, all amid fears that the situation could escalate into a new intifada or uprising. Palestinian.
Serious community violence within Israel, like the nightly street attacks carried out by far-right Jewish gangs and Arab youth, they have inflamed the situation. On Saturday, a 12-year-old Arab boy was in hospital with a ventilator and facial burns after a Molotov cocktail that was thrown at his home.
Diplomatic efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza progressed slowly, even after US envoy Hady Amr flew to Israel and the UN Security Council finally confirmed a meeting on the crisis for Sunday.
Israel rejected an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official told the AP on Friday. Defense Minister Benny Gantz has previously mentioned the bombardment will continue until Israel achieves “long-term total silence.”
As officials tried to negotiate the talks, people were killed by missile and rocket attacks on both sides of the border, although casualties were more than 10 times higher in the small and crowded Gaza Strip, where there are few shelters. anti-aircraft and residents have nowhere to go. Run to escape the Israeli bombardment.
In Gaza, at least 139 people have died, including 39 children and 22 women, health authorities say. In Israel, ten people were killed, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.
In a story published just hours before AP staff saw their office reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble, correspondent Fares Akram had written that the tower was “the only place in Gaza City where I feel somewhat safe.”
“The Israeli army has the coordinates for the skyscraper, so a bomb is less likely to knock it down,” he wrote. “When the thunder of the bombs, the hum of the drones and the hammering of the artillery cool the pain and unleash the old fear, I seek refuge at work.”
Gary Pruitt, Executive Director of AP He said it was “Shocked and horrified that the Israeli army targets and destroys the building that houses the AP office and other news organizations in Gaza.” Pruitt says the AP is seeking information from the Israeli government.
Al Jazeera promised “to follow all available routes to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions.” Director General Mostefa Souag described the attack as a war crime aimed at “silencing the media and concealing the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza.”
Media organizations and others in the building received just one hour’s warning to get people and equipment out of the tower before the strike.
President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States had told Israeli authorities “that ensuring the safety of journalists and independent media is a primary responsibility,” but did not condemn the attack.
The Israeli army, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said the high-rise tower contained “military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the terrorist organization Hamas.” He later added that the building housed a Hamas “research and development unit”.
He also said that he had attacked “several senior officials of the Hamas terrorist organization, in an apartment” in the Al Shati refugee camp.
The only building affected overnight by the airstrikes at that camp was a three-story complex with a family house above a grocery store and a hair salon, owned by Haddidi’s brother-in-law.
Haddidi heard the bomb landing without knowing its target, then got the call saying her family had been hit. He ran to the ruins of his brother-in-law’s house, but there were no survivors, so he went to the hospital.
“I was happy that Omar was still alive, but at the same time, I asked him what future awaits this baby,” she said. “He has a broken leg and an eye injury.” One of his cousins, a girl, is in intensive care.
The other eight children and their mothers have already been buried. Neighbors and the Health Ministry said there were no adult men among those killed or injured.
Neighbors said there was no warning of the attack, the deadliest in this conflict.
Hamas said it fired rockets into southern Israel in response; it has spilled more than 2,000 across the border since Monday, according to the Israeli military, and while most have been stopped by the “Iron Dome” missile defense system, some have landed, killing people and damaging property.
The conduct of the Israeli army had already caused tensions with the international media, even before the Gaza offices were bombed.
There were reports that a military spokesman had lied to the press in English as part of an elaborate ruse to lure Hamas militants into a trap by making them think a ground operation was underway.
The accusations caused anger and fear in regional newsrooms. “It is a very dangerous place for the IDF to be suspected of misleading the international press, especially when we are on the brink of an escalation with Hamas,” said Amos Harel, a military analyst for Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper. the New York Times.
“It is also risky for journalists,” he added. “The Israeli army may be forgetting that foreign journalists are on both sides of the fence, and it could be dangerous for them if they are suspected of being used for Israeli psychological operations.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism