His Excellency Benjamin Gantz
Minister of Defense
Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi
Chief of General Staff, Israel Defense Forces
Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street
Tel Aviv, Israel, 61909
June 10, 2021
Sent via email: [email protected]
Dear Minister Ganz and Lieutenant General Kochavi,
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent non-governmental organization that champions press freedom around the world, write to express our grave concern about Israeli forces’ recent bombings of at least four buildings in Gaza housing the offices of no less than 18 international and local media outlets, and the Israeli airstrike that killed Palestinian journalist Yousef Abu Hussein.
We urge you to address outstanding questions about the reasons for targeting buildings known to house media outlets and journalists, to make public any evidence of Hamas’ alleged use of those buildings for military purposes, and to ensure that journalists can report the news safely and freely.
Since airstrikes started on May 10, CPJ has documented at least five separate attacks on media outlets and journalists in Gaza City:
- On May 11, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Jawhara building, which housed the offices of at least nine media outlets.
- On May 12, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Shorouk building, which housed the offices of at least five media outlets.
- On May 15, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed the Al-Jalaa building, which housed the offices of The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
- On May 17, Israeli warplanes bombed and damaged the building housing the office of the Nawa Online Women Media Network news website.
- On May 19, Israeli warplanes bombed the top floors of the apartment building where Yousef Abu Hussein, a reporter and news anchor for the Hamas-affiliated radio station Voice of Al-Aqsa, lived with his family, killing him.
No evidence has been provided to substantiate the Israel Defense Force’s claims that the Al-Jawhara and Al-Shorouk buildings housed Hamas intelligence and military offices. Further, The Associated Press said they had no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, and both the owner of the Al-Jalaa building and Hamas have disputed the IDF’s claim.
During a meeting with The Associated Press in New York on June 8, the Israeli ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, maintained that the Al-Jalaa building was destroyed because it posed an urgent threat. However, he failed to provide evidence to support that claim.
In addition to these strikes, Israeli authorities banned foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing, which remained closed until the ceasefire came into effect on May 21.
In the absence of evidence, these actions raise the strong suspicion that the IDF was deliberately targeting media facilities and journalists, and denying entry to foreign journalists to disrupt media coverage of human suffering in Gaza. This is unacceptable.
The targeting of media facilities and journalists by Israel is a deeply troubling trend that CPJ has documented and extends over decades. Declaring a Hamas connection without providing evidence, as the Israeli authorities often do, amounts to empty allegations that appear intended to distract public attention from the issue at hand.
We ask that you consider this a matter of urgency. As minister of defense and the IDF’s chief of general staff, you have the authority to ensure transparency and accountability for the attacks cited in this letter. We request that your government provide an immediate and detailed explanation for the destruction of the buildings mentioned above, and the killing of Abu Hussein, as well as credible evidence to substantiate that explanation.
We also request that the Israeli government reaffirm its international commitments to protect civilians, including journalists, in conflict zones.
Deputy Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists