One hour to escape: the race to get out of a Gaza tower before an Israeli airstrike –podcast

On 15 May, at 1.35pm, an officer of the Israeli military called Tarek Mahdi, whose family owned and lived in Gaza’s 15-floor al-Jalaa tower, along with many others. The officer said that the building would soon be hit by an airstrike. The residents and workers there had one hour to get out.

At that moment, a race began to alert residents and try to get them all out. The destruction of the building – which had about 60 flats as well as offices of Al Jazeera and Associated Press, but which Israel claimed was also used by Hamas for “electronic warfare” to disrupt its air force – became one of the indelible images of the 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in May this year. Anas Baba tells Michael Safi the story of the people who lived there in the last hour before their homes were levelled – as pieced together through interviews and recordings they shared of their frantic attempts to get everybody out in time.

This episode relies on the reporting undertaken by Anas Baba, Kaamil Ahmed, and Joe Dyke of the civilian harm monitoring organisation Airwars. You can also explore an interactive, Countdown to the airstrike: the moment Israeli forces hit al-Jalaa tower, Gaza.



Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

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