The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the militant group Hamas had used the al-Jalaa building in Gaza to attempt to disrupt Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system.
The al-Jalaa tower was destroyed during an airstrike on May 15 during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. The building housed offices for the Associated Press and other news media outlets, as well as dozens of families, the Associated Press reported.
Erdan said the reports of Hamas using the tower prompted the bombing from the Israeli air force in a statement released on Twitter.
“Israel did everything to ensure no employees or civilians were hurt during this operation. In contrast, Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in buildings being used by international media outlets,” Erdan said on Twitter.
The AP says it has not seen any evidence to support Israel’s claims and has issued a statement calling for “the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Erdan issued his statement a day after meeting the AP’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, and Ian Phillips, vice president for international news, at the AP’s New York headquarters.
The Israeli air force bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa tower roughly an hour after ordering all occupants to evacuate. No one was injured, but the building was destroyed.
Erdan said the airstrike did not intentionally target journalists.
“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” he said.
“I reaffirmed that Israel upholds the importance of press freedom and strives to ensure the safety of journalists wherever they are reporting. Israel is willing to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza,” he added.
The meeting with Erdan “was a positive and constructive conversation,” the AP said in a statement. The agency expressed its appreciation for his pledges to help rebuild an AP bureau in Gaza.
The AP renewed its call to see evidence backing Israel’s claim that Hamas militants were operating in the building.
“Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat,” the AP said. “We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims.”
The AP has repeatedly urged Israel to share any evidence supporting its claims of Hamas activity in the building. It also has urged an independent investigation into the incident.