Israel’s military chief alleged in private Gaza-based journalists of the Associated Press (AP) drank their morning coffee with members of the Hamas terror group in the building the Israel Defense Forces felled during the recent 11-day war, a new report said.
The 13-story Al Jalaa building that housed the offices of the AP and Al Jazeera was bombed by the Israel Defense Forces because it was housing a Hamas intelligence unit, the IDF said.
Despite international condemnation and a demand by AP to investigate the strike, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said he had no regrets.
“It justifiably came down,” he told Channel 12 according to a translation of his remarks by The Times of Israel. “I haven’t a gram of regret.”
The IDF said that working members of the press in the building were being used as human shields.
According to the report, Kohavi told a foreign official that whether they were aware of it or not, AP journalists drank their morning coffee alongside Hamas operatives who were working on electronic warfare for the Hamas intelligence unit.
AP released a statement Saturday night refuting the report: “This unsubstantiated allegation attributed to the Israeli military’s chief of staff is patently false. There was not even a cafeteria in the building. Such baseless claims jeopardize the safety of AP journalists.”
AP, it noted, “continues to call for an independent investigation into the destruction of the building housing our Gaza bureau so that the facts are known. As we have said repeatedly, we had no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike. We do not know what the Israeli evidence shows, and we want to know.”
The New York Times last week reported some high-ranking Israeli officials regret the strike, saying any benefit of destroying Hamas’ electronic equipment was outweighed by the damage caused to Israel’s global image for attacking a press building.
While AP criticized Israel, saying, “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” a former White House national security official under Obama said the building was long known as a Hamas operational center and that people who worked there knew that.
A former AP editor also said Hamas operated from within the building.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS’s “Face the Nation” the media building was a “perfectly legitimate target.” He added the appropriate channels had been given the intelligence showing Hamas’ operations in the building. The Biden administration acknowledged it had been provided with intelligence.
The owner of the Al Jalaa tower, Jawad Mehdi, filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court saying the attack constituted a “war crime.” A video of Mehdi made the rounds showing him in a phone conversation with an IDF officer, demanding he postpone the strike another ten minutes. Mehdi said that he had been warned by the IDF an hour in advance to get everyone out of the building. There were no injuries.
Chief prosecutor of the ICC said last week that “crimes” may have been committed during the recent round of conflict between Israel and Hamas, adding to the investigation launched in March into potential war crimes since 2014.