New York, May 13, 2021 – Israeli forces must refrain from bombing media outlets, and should ensure that journalists can work safely and without fear, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On May 11 and 12, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Jawhara and Al-Shorouk office buildings in Gaza City, which house more than a dozen international and local media outlets, according to news reports, a statement by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, and Louay al-Ghoul, head of the syndicate in Gaza, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Residents were warned to evacuate the Al-Jawhara building before the air strike, and planes fired two warning shots at the Al-Shorouk building before firing missiles, according to multiple news reports. CPJ could not immediately confirm whether any journalists were killed or injured in the attacks; those reports said that the buildings had been evacuated, but a report by the BBC stated that there had been unidentified “civilian deaths” in the Al-Jawhara strike.
“It is utterly unacceptable for Israel to bomb and destroy the offices of media outlets and endanger the lives of journalists, especially since Israeli authorities know where those media outlets are housed,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Israeli authorities must ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely without fear of being injured or killed.”
According to reports published by the affected outlets, Israeli planes destroyed the 12-story Al-Jawhara building, which housed the offices of:
- London-based Qatari broadcaster Al-Araby TV
- News website and newspaper Felestin (Palestine)
- Kata’eb Hezbollah-affiliated Iraqi broadcaster Al-Etejah TV
- Pro-Fatah broadcaster Al-Kofiya TV
- Jordanian broadcaster Al-Mamlaka
- Pro-Hamas outlet Sabq24 News Agency
- News website Al-Bawaba 24
- Production company Watania News Agency
- Media rights group Forum of Palestinian Journalists
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and news reports also stated that the building housed the offices of the broadcaster Al-Nujaba TV, affiliated with the Iraqi militia Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba; the state-owned broadcaster Syria TV; and the local photo agency APA Images. CPJ was unable to find any information published by those outlets concerning the airstrike.
The nearby office of the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera was also damaged by the bombing of the Al-Jawhara building, according to the syndicate statement and a report by the broadcaster.
Israeli forces also bombed and destroyed the Al-Shorouk building, which housed the offices of:
- Hamas-affiliated broadcasters Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio
- The media production company PMP
- The pro-Hamas broadcaster Al-Quds Today
- The Palestinian National Authority-affiliated newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate also stated that Taiff Media was located in that building, but CPJ could not immediately confirm the details of that company’s work.
After publication of this article, the Israel Defense Force’s North America Desk, without providing a name, responded to CPJ’s request for comment with an emailed statement saying the Israeli military acted within international law and made “every effort” to minimize civilian harm, including giving sufficient warning to evacuate the buildings.
The statement said Israeli forces had bombed the Al-Jawhara building because it housed Hamas’ intelligence and military offices, including “the military wing’s Public Relations department.” It said the Al-Shorouk building housed Hamas military intelligence offices and “infrastructure used by the terror organizations to communicate tactical-military information.”
In recent weeks, protests sparked in part by evictions of Palestinian families from the eastern Jerusalemite neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in favor of Israeli settlers have led to larger clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, resulting in the deaths of at least 65 poeople in Gaza and 6 in Israel, according to Reuters.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include the IDF’s response to CPJ’s request for comment.]