Controlling the narrative is a growing front in Israel-Palestine conflict.
Youmna al-Sayed had less than an hour to get to safety.
But with just one elevator working in al-Jalaa tower, an 11-storey building in Gaza City housing some 60 residential apartments and a number of offices, including those of Al Jazeera Media Network and The Associated Press, al-Sayed made a dash for the stairs.
“We left the elevator for the elderly and for the children to evacuate,” the Palestinian freelance journalist said. “And we were all running down the stairs and whoever could help children took them down,” she added. “I myself helped two children of the residents there and I took them downstairs – everyone was just running quickly.”
Moments earlier, the Israeli army, which has been bombarding Gaza for six straight days, had given a telephone warning that residents had just an hour to evacuate the building before its fighter jets attacked it.
Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout also had to move quickly. He and his colleagues “started to collect as much as they could, from the personal and equipment of the office – especially the cameras”, al-Kahlout said.
But more time was needed.
“Just give me 15 minutes,” an AP journalist pleaded over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer. “We have a lot of equipment, including the cameras, other things,” he added from outside the building. “I can bring all of it out.”
Jawad Mahdi, the building’s owner, also tried to buy more time.
“All I’m asking is to let four people … to go inside and get their cameras,” he told the officer. “We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don’t allow it, but give us 10 minutes.”
“There will be no 10 minutes,” the officer replied. “No one is allowed to enter the building, we already gave you an hour to evacuate.”
When the request was rejected, Mahdi said: “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God.”
The Israeli army claimed there were “military interests of the Hamas intelligence” in the building, a standard line used after bombing buildings in Gaza, and it accused the group running the territory of using journalists as human shields. However, it provided no evidence to back up its claims.
“I have been working in this office for more than 10 years and I have never seen anything [suspicious],” al-Kahlout said.
AP VIDEO: Associated Press staff evacuated their office in Gaza City shortly before the building was destroyed in an Israel airstrike. https://t.co/Ib5T2SohXq
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 15, 2021
“I even asked my colleagues if they’ve seen anything suspicious and they all confirmed to me that they have never seen any military aspects or the fighters even coming in and out,” he added.
“In our building, we have lots of families that we know for more than 10 years, we meet each other every day on our way in and out to the office.”
Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of AP, also told Al Jazeera: “I can tell you that we’ve been in that building for about 15 years for our bureau. We certainly had no sense that Hamas was there.”
Al-Sayed, who has been covering Israel’s bombardment for Al Jazeera and has worked for AP, said she could not understand what threat a building housing families and offices for lawyers, doctors and media workers could pose.
“Where is the alarm from this? Where are the Hamas or any military members that could be in this building?” the Gaza resident asked.
“The people here, the residents, all know each other. The first five floors are for offices that are [closed] during this time of escalation. So basically what is [still here] are the two media offices of Al Jazeera and AP and the residential apartments.”
Still, at 3:12pm (12:12 GMT), the first Israeli strike came. Five minutes later, al-Jalaa tower crashed to the ground after being hit by three missiles that sent a dark cloud of dust and debris into the air. There have been no immediate reports of casualties.
“Years of memories, years of work in this building, suddenly, everything is rubble,” said al-Kahlout, about the tower from whose roof he often broadcast from. “Just vanished.”
BREAKING: Israeli air raid flattens building that houses Al Jazeera and other international media outlets in Gaza City.
Follow our LIVE coverage: https://t.co/RvtP1lEX1x pic.twitter.com/pr963DBTde
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 15, 2021
Islam az-Zaeem, a lawyer who worked in the building, was at home when his cousin – the owner of the Johara building that was flattened overnight on May 13 – knocked on his door and told him al-Jalaa was about to be destroyed.
“I ran to the building and saw the residents and other employees gathered outside,” az-Zaeem told Al Jazeera.
“I went inside and took the stairs since the electricity was out and the elevators weren’t working. I was hysterical, and fell down several times in the dark, shouting and crying.”
Az-Zaeem, who said nine legal associates and four interns worked on his floor, left the building five minutes before it was levelled.
“Even after the building fell, I kept shouting that I’d forgotten to lock the door to my office,” he said. “Imagine that.”
The building, built in the mid-1990s, was one of Gaza City’s oldest high-rises.
Fares al-Ghoul, the executive director for the Mayadeen Media Group, said his company was previously based in the Shorouq building, which was destroyed by Israeli missiles on May 13.
“The upper floors of Shorouq were targeted in the 2014 war,” he said. “In 2019, we moved the company to al-Jalaa building because we thought it would be safer, since it accommodated the offices of international media agencies.”
“Now both have been destroyed,” he said.
The bombing of al-Jalaa, widely condemned as an attempt to “silence” journalists covering Israel’s offensive, came just hours after an Israeli air raid at Shati refugee camp killed 10 members of the same family – eight children, two women – celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the religious festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
At least 145 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israeli air raids on the coastal Palestinian territory began on Monday. About 950 others have been wounded.
The violence comes after Israel’s plan to forcibly displace Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem and its attacks on Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound spurred widespread protests in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and inside Israel. Hamas said it began firing rockets towards Israel in response to that Israeli crackdown. At least nine people have also been killed in Israel.
As evening fell on Gaza, families and journalists started returning to al-Jalaa in the hopes of salvaging some of their belongings buried underneath the rubble.
“One person came back to look for some paintings done by his daughter because these paintings carried a lot of memories,” said al-Kahlout, who continued reporting from the streets of the bombarded enclave. “We moved outside and are now applying our emergency plans for reporting. We are trying to be safe. No place is safe in Gaza but we are trying to do our best.”
BREAKING NEWS: Israeli air strike flattens media building with our @AlJazeera and AP offices .. we are watching it live as it unfolds. Beyond SHOCKED!!! No words. pic.twitter.com/PnIQXCap6Z
— Sara Khairat | سارة خيرت (@sarakhairat) May 15, 2021
Al-Sayed, meanwhile, headed to al-Shifa Hospital, believed to be a safe space to broadcast from. “It’s devastating,” she said of the al-Jalaa building’s flattening.
“I worked in that place and my heart was broken to see it being brought to the ground, it was tragic. Every place whether we work or we live, we have incredible memories,” she added.
“What about those families who have lost their homes, who have lost everything they saved to get these apartments? In Gaza, it’s not an easy thing to be able to get an apartment, and now in just minutes, [they] lose everything.
“Words can’t describe the amount of devastation, can’t describe the tragedy that people are going through.”
A Palestinian police officers stands in the rubble of al-Jalaa building [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]With additional reporting by @LinahAlsaafin.
This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 79%. (I’m a bot)The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.Al Jazeera: “Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the bombing and destruction of its offices by the Israeli military in Gaza and views this as a clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground,” the outlet said in a statement.”The destruction of Al Jazeera offices and that of other media organizations in al-Jalaa tower in Gaza is a blatant violation of human rights and is internationally considered a war crime,” said Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network.Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: Gaza#1 media#2 Jazeera#3 Israeli#4 building#5
Some now see the beginnings of a new Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
The election board says delays in opening polling stations and voter registration have pushed back the voting day.Ethiopia has delayed its national election again after some opposition parties said they would not take part and as a conflict in the country’s Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to centralise power.
Birtukan Mideksa, chairperson of The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), “indicated that delays in opening polling stations and voter registration have pushed the voting day”, state news agency Fana reported on Saturday.
Mideksa told Reuters news agency the election would not happen on June 5 as scheduled.
“We will let everybody [know] soon as to how many additional weeks or days to complete the delayed tasks … Wouldn’t be more than three weeks,” she added.
Mideksa cited a plethora of logistical delays, such as finalising voter registration, training electoral staff, printing and distributing ballot papers.
“Practically, it became impossible to deliver all these at the originally slated dates,” she said.
With just weeks to go to the election, there had been few signs of campaigning, and several opposition parties planned to boycott the vote, describing it as a “farce”.
Ethiopians fleeing the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region carry their belongings after crossing the Setit River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]The vote was originally planned for August last year but was postponed for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was ruling the northern region at the time, had resisted the postponement and held its regional elections in September.
This was a factor that led to the conflict between the TPLF and the central government in Addis Ababa, which has been ongoing since early November.
The fighting in Tigray has killed thousands and led the United States to allege that “ethnic cleansing” against Tigrayans was being carried out in the western part of the region that is home to some six million.
The prime minister, who introduced sweeping political reforms after taking office in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, has repeatedly promised that this election would be free and fair.
Abiy will keep his post if his Prosperity Party wins a majority of seats in the national assembly.
For much of Canada’s media, the death of an old dog is more newsworthy than the suffering and deaths of imprisoned Palestinians.
That is, in particular, the disgraceful, inescapable indictment of the journalists who populate Canada’s national network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
If the CBC and you doubt this, remember these facts.
On April 27, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the cautious darling of the Western press, published a 213-page report belatedly finding that Israel has, almost since its engineered inception, ruthlessly and systematically persecuted Palestinians.
The overarching motive behind Israel’s ruthless, systemic persecution of Palestinians is not to keep Israelis safe. Rather, Israel’s sinister aim is to impose ethnic supremacy in occupied Palestine and to crush Palestinians into ghettos with grinding, inhuman efficiency.
The, by now, familiar scenes of fanatical Israeli thugs – in and out of uniforms – assaulting Palestinians resisting eviction from their homes in occupied Jerusalem are vivid proof of Israel’s malevolent intent. So too are, of course, images of the limp, disfigured bodies of infants and children – all victims, yet again, of Israel’s brutal bombardment of Gaza.
Israel, HRW concluded, has, for generations, been guilty of apartheid as a matter of international law, not a facile, rhetorical allegation.
The HRW report made a lot of news and triggered a lot of commentary on this page and on other major media across the globe. But not in Canada. And, most blatantly, not on any of CBC’s many publicly-financed digital and broadcast platforms.
Not a word was uttered about, nor was a moment devoted to, the HRW report by any CBC journalist on April 27, despite the network having received an advance copy.
Now, on May 8, the Obama family’s cute Portuguese water dog, Bo, died, after succumbing to cancer. Bo was described as a “White House celebrity” in the headline attached to a lengthy story about his death published by the CBC online.
So, in the cockeyed calculus of CBC journalists, the passing of a “celebrity” dog constituted “news” that required Canadians’ urgent attention, but Israel’s documented crimes against humanity exacted on besieged Palestinians – decade after pitiless decade – did not warrant even a mention by the network on April 27 and save for this buried, passing reference, in the days since.
The CBC also did not invite a Palestinian-Canadian on any of its news or current affairs programmes to discuss the HRW report’s careful findings and recommendations that demanded its attention since they would have provided an instructive framework for Canadian viewers to understand Israel’s manifest record of aggression.
Beyond being a sorry, indelible stain on its already fading reputation, CBC’s institution-wide embargo of the HRW report is in glaring violation of the public broadcaster’s unique, supposedly sacrosanct, mandate to offer Canadians programming that “informs, enlightens and…reflect[s] Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences”.
Why was the HRW report not covered?
To try to answer that question, I approached 17 hosts of the CBC’s most popular news and current affairs programmes with several queries via email to explain their individual and collective failure to “inform, enlighten” and allow Canadians, including scores of able and willing Palestinian-Canadians, to “reflect” publicly on HRW’s report from April 27 onwards.
None of these suddenly mute journalists-turned-TV and radio personalities who ask questions for a living responded. Not one. Instead, they shunted me to a CBC PR official.
Their sad hypocrisy is on clear, dishonourable display.
These CBC journalists – who routinely extol the virtues of the fourth estate and the broadcaster they work for as an indispensable means to hold powerful public and private individuals and institutions to account – retreat like timorous politicians into silence when a nettlesome member of the fraternity tries to hold them to account.
Like celebrities, these star journalists defer to their PR “people” to speak for and protect them from prickly questions.
In a series of emails, CBC spokesperson, Chuck Thompson, acknowledged that CBC “did not pursue any stories regarding the Human Rights Watch report from April 27th”.
Later, when pressed, he claimed that “there was no edict (nor would there ever be on any story) from anyone within CBC News not to cover this report. Every day, across the service, our program teams make independent, editorial decisions as to what they will cover on their respective shows”.
Translation: Yes, it is true, all these CBC journalists working on all these news and current affairs programmes all decided not to cover the HRW report on precisely the same day and they made all those editorial decisions all by themselves. But in no way was that an act of collusion. It was just a miraculous happenstance.
This is as absurd as it is shameful and it cannot stand for several irrefutable reasons that gagged, myopic CBC journalists and their excuse-mongering confederates need to understand finally.
The CBC is owned by Palestinian Canadians too. They can no longer be treated not only as invisible but as the “other” on Canada’s public airwaves.
As such, when a leading human rights group finds that Palestinians have been methodically humiliated, evicted, imprisoned, tortured, murdered and had their ancestral homes stolen as a consequence of Israeli apartheid, then their voices must be heard clearly and repeatedly on the CBC.
Further, CBC can no longer be permitted to practice a transparent double-standard when it comes to its coverage of international human rights “abusers”.
Examine a slice of the incriminating evidence.
On January 14, 2020, CBC posted a story online on an HRW report lacing into China’s human rights outrages.
This is the story’s stinging lead paragraph: “In an annual report, Human Rights Watch released a scathing review of the Chinese government, calling on the international community to push back against ‘the most brutal and pervasive oppression China has seen in decades.’”
Three years earlier, CBC produced a 22-minute documentary that put Russia in its journalistic crosshairs and explained to its audience in a headline: How Canada set out to punish Russia’s human rights abusers.
When HRW establishes that Israel is culpable for the wholesale, illegal persecution of Palestinians and of practising apartheid in occupied Palestine, the CBC treats this criminality as taboo and has failed to air calls in Canada and abroad for Israel to be punished for its crimes.
By prohibiting Palestinian Canadian writers, academics and historians a forum to inform, enlighten and reflect upon HRW’s scathing report, CBC has deliberately prevented Canadians from inspecting the historical context to make sense of the recent eruption of state-sanctioned violence throughout occupied Palestine.
Israel’s unlawful and pending evictions of Palestinians from their homes in occupied Jerusalem, its unilateral repression of Palestinians’ right to assembly, its bloody, sacrilegious attacks on Palestinian worshippers at one of Islam’s holiest sites, its indiscriminate, disproportionate killings of children, women and men in Gaza are not the latest “spasms” of the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”.
These are, as HRW makes plain, acts of an occupying army whose intent is to batter, bludgeon and bomb Palestinians out of their land and existence.
That preening, “progressive” apostle of human rights and rules-based order, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also prefers to say and do nothing about Israel’s crimes. Lately, he has been busy granting friction-free interviews to obsequious reporters and self-proclaimed online luminaries who play an agreeable game of T-ball with the ever-effervescent prime minister.
Predictably, Trudeau is never challenged to square his puerile-sounding, unqualified support for Israel with, as HRW succinctly and accurately puts it, “the reality on the ground”.
When he is grudgingly compelled to address “the reality on the ground”, Canada’s telegenic poster-boy for hypocrisy clings to and spouts lies in the face of the perpetual humiliation, violence and terror visited on Palestinians by Israel in occupied Palestine – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Only days ago, as the Israeli army was primed, once more, to pummel Palestinians into deference and submission, Trudeau declared like a wind-up marionette that “Canada supports Israel’s right to assure its own security”.
Trudeau’s “policy” towards occupied Palestine – such that it is – amounts to this: Palestinians are supposed to take it, take it, take it, take it, take it, take it, take it, take it as long as Israel wants to humiliate them, traumatise them, evict them, steal from them, imprison them, torture them, maim them, shoot them, cluster-bomb them, invade them, and slaughter them.
Canada’s diplomats – who, stripped of all the polite embroidery, do Trudeau’s callous, retrograde bidding in the Middle East – have been “reviewing” HRW’s report for two weeks.
An official with Canada’s foreign ministry, Global Affairs Canada, “respectfully declined” my requests to be interviewed about the brutality of Israeli apartheid and the grim, familiar costs of the uprising unfolding in occupied Palestine to resist it.
Just like the gallery of uncharacteristically taciturn CBC journalists, apparently, this nation’s diplomats have other, more pressing matters on their minds.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
The Associated Press and Al Jazeera have both issued statements condemning the bombing of Gaza media offices by the Israeli military, claiming that the “disturbing” attack almost killed several reporters.
Following the targeted bombing on Saturday, which destroyed the building containing international media offices in Gaza, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the company was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building,” as they have “long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there.”“We are seeking information from the Israeli government and are engaged with the US State Department to try to learn more,” he revealed, calling the bombing “an incredibly disturbing development.”
Also on rt.com
Israeli airstrike levels Gaza tower housing AP, Al Jazeera & other international media (VIDEO)
Though the news organization received warning to evacuate the building around an hour before the airstrike, Pruitt said they “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life.”“A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” he concluded.The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.In their own statement, Al Jazeera accused the Israeli government of trying to “silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth of what is happening in Gaza.”“This is a crime among a series of crimes perpetrated by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip,” said Al Jazeera Jerusalem bureau chief Walid al-Omari, who added that it would be “impossible” to stop the truth.The Israel Defense Forces justified the attack by alleging that Hamas was also using the building for “intelligence gathering” and other purposes, and that it had thus become a “lawful military target.”Following the bombing of the tower, an Al Jazeera English anchorwoman declared on air, “This channel will not be silenced. Al Jazeera will not be silenced.”
Also on rt.com
‘Warms your heart to see’: American conservatives celebrate Israeli bombing of AP & Al Jazeera offices
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!
On Instagram and Twitter, Palestinians are documenting the violence against them.
The media network says bombing is a ‘clear act’ to stop journalists from reporting events in Gaza Strip, vows to pursue every available route to hold the Israeli gov’t responsible.Al Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the bombing and destruction of its offices by the Israeli military in Gaza and views this as a clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground.
Al Jazeera promises to pursue every available route to hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions.
Residents and occupants of al-Jalaa building, which housed Al Jazeera’s office along with leading international media outlets, such as The Associated Press and Middle East Eye, were informed by the Israeli army via a phone call that they had less than one hour to vacate the building.
Al Jazeera calls on all media and human right institutions to join forces in denouncing these ruthless bombings and to hold the government of Israel accountable for deliberately targeting journalists and media institutions.
⭕ LIVE footage of the moment an Israeli air raid bombed the offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press in Gaza City ⬇️
🔴 LIVE updates: https://t.co/RvtP1lEX1x pic.twitter.com/RBO1ZiDAl0
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 15, 2021
Commenting on the bombing of al-Jalaa building, Dr Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, said: “We call on the international community to condemn such barbaric actions and targeting of journalists and we demand an immediate international action to hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and the media institutions.”
Dr Souag added: “The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza.
“The destruction of Al Jazeera offices and that of other media organizations in al-Jalaa tower in Gaza is a blatant violation of human rights and is internationally considered a war crime. We call on all media and human rights institutions in denouncing this heinous crime, and to stand with Al Jazeera and other media organisations targeted by the Israeli army, despite knowing their use of the building as their headquarters for many years.”
The assault on the building hosting international media institutions aims to silence the truth by killing the messenger.
Journalism is not a crime.
Israeli air strike on Gaza demolished the building housing Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.Doha: Al Jazeera said Saturday it would not be silenced, after an Israeli air strike on Gaza demolished the building housing the Qatar-based broadcaster as well as US news agency The Associated Press.”It is clear that those who are waging this war do not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza, but also to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth of what is happening in Gaza,” said Walid al-Omari, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief.”But this is impossible,” he said on air shortly after the 13-storey Jala Tower in Gaza was obliterated.”This is a crime among a series of crimes perpetrated by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.”Al Jazeera broadcast footage showing the building collapsing to the ground after the Israeli air strike, sending up a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris.Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the evacuation of the building.Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, Safwat al-Kahlout, tweeted his despair over the destruction.”I have been working here for 11 years. I have covered many events from this building… now everything, in two seconds, just vanished,” he said.Israel alleged its “fighter jets attacked a high-rise building which hosted military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organisation”.”The building also hosted offices of civilian media outlets, which the Hamas terror group hides behind and uses as human shields,” it said.Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed 139 people including 39 children, and wounded 1,000 more, health officials in the coastal enclave say.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)