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‘Give us 10 minutes’: How Israel bombed Gaza media tower | Freedom of the Press


Youmna al-Sayed had less than an hour to get to the defense.

But with only one working ship in al-Jalaa tower, an 11-story building in Gaza City with 60 other buildings and several offices, in addition to Al Jazeera Media Network and The Associated Press, al-Sayed built the stairs.

“We have abandoned the old board and the children have to move,” said an independent journalist in Palestine. “And we were all going down the stairs and anyone who could help the children was going down,” he added. “I also helped two local children and I dropped them off – everyone just ran faster.”

Earlier, Israeli forces, who had been bombing Gaza for six days, had issued a telephone call warning residents to leave the building one hour later. his warplanes attacked him.

Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout also had to move fast. He and his colleagues “began to collect as much as they could, from their personal belongings and office equipment – especially cameras”, al-Kahlout said.

But more time was needed.

“Just give me 15 minutes,” the AP journalist pleaded on the phone with Israel’s chief information officer. “We have a lot of equipment, including cameras, other things,” he added from outside the building. “I can get it all out.”

Jawad Mahdi, the owner of the house, also tried to buy more time.

“All I’m asking for is for four people … to come in and get their cameras,” he told police. “We respect your wishes, we won’t do it if you don’t agree, but help us for 10 minutes.”

“It won’t be 10 minutes,” the officer replied. “No one is allowed in. We have already given you an hour to evacuate.”

When the request was rejected, Mahdi said: “You have ruined our work, our memories, our lives. I hang up the phone, do what you want. God does exist. ”

Israeli forces say there was an “interest in Hamas intelligence” in the building, a similar line that was used to blow up houses in Gaza, and criticized a group that operates a media portfolio. However, it did not provide any evidence to substantiate his claims.

“I have been working in this office for over 10 years and I have never seen anything [suspicious], “Al-Kahlout said.

“I asked my friends if they had seen anything suspicious and they all assured me that they had never seen anything like war or fighters or come in and out,” he added.

“In our house, we have a lot of families we have known for over 10 years, we meet every day coming in and out of the office.”

Gary Pruitt, President and CEO of AP, also told Al Jazeera: “I can tell you that we have been in this house for almost 15 years in our office. We did not know that Hamas was there.”

Al-Sayed, who has been covering the Israeli bombing at Al Jazeera and has worked for the AP, said he could not understand the threats to building houses and offices for lawyers, doctors and journalists.

“Where is the alarm? Where are Hamas or any other military that can be in this building? ”A resident of Gaza asked.

“People here, residents, all know each other. The first five rooms are the existing offices [closed] during this period of growth. Then what exactly is it [still here] two Al Jazeera and AP offices as well as apartments. ”

However, at 3:12 pm (12:12 GMT), the first strike in Israel came. Five minutes later, al-Jalaa’s tower fell to the ground after being hit by three missiles that sent a black cloud of dust and debris into the air. There have been no recent reports of injuries.

“The years of remembrance, the years of working in this house, all of a sudden, it’s all in ruins,” said al-Kahlout, referring to the platform where he was publishing on the roof. “Just lost.”

Islam az-Zaeem, the lawyer who worked at the house, was at home when his cousin – the owner of Johara’s house that was built overnight on May 13 – knocked on his door and told him that al-Jalaa was about to be destroyed.

“I rushed to the house and saw the occupants and other staff gathered outside,” az-Zaeem told Al Jazeera.

“I went inside and climbed the stairs because the lights were off and the elevators didn’t work. I became very angry, and I fell down several times in the dark, screaming and crying. ”

Az-Zaeem, who said nine lawmakers and four alumni worked under him, left the building five minutes before it was to be published.

“Even when a house collapses, I keep screaming that I forgot to close the door to my office,” he said. “Just think of it.”

Built in the mid-1990’s, it is one of the tallest buildings in Gaza City.

Fares al-Ghoul, executive director of Mayadeen Media Group, said his company had already occupied Shorouq’s house, which was destroyed by Israeli weapons on May 13.

“Under Shorouq he focused on the 2014 war,” he said. “In 2019, we relocated the company to al-Jalaa because we thought it was safe, because it is where you are located in the offices of the international media.”

“Now they are all destroyed,” he said.

Al-Jalaa bomb blast, severe criticism as an attempt to “silence” the media to cover up the atrocities in Israel, it came just hours after an Israeli plane crashed into a T-shirt camp. killed 10 members of a family – eight children, two mothers – celebrates Eid al-Fitr, a 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 Israel’s Israeli-led Palestinian war on Monday began. About 950 were injured.

The violence comes after Israel seeks to forcibly seize Palestinian families from East Jerusalem and their homelands attacks on Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque camp encouraged demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and inside Israel. Hamas says it started firing rockets into Israel in response to Israel’s destruction. At least nine people have been killed in Israel.

In the evening after the crash in Gaza, families and journalists began returning to al-Jalaa in hopes of rescuing some of their belongings buried under the rubble.

“One man came back to see the paintings his daughter had written because the paintings had so many memories,” said al-Kahlout, who continued to report on the streets of the house. “We moved out and now we are using our emergency plans for reporting. We are trying to be safe. There is no safe haven in Gaza but we are trying our best to do our best. “

Al-Sayed, meanwhile, went to al-Shifa’s hospital, which he believes is a good place to spread the word. “It is traumatic,” he said of al-Jalaa’s home.

“I worked on the site and my heart was broken to see it brought to the ground, it was a tragedy. Every place, whether we work or live, we have good memories,” he added.

“What about families who have lost their homes, who have lost everything they owned to get these houses? In Gaza it is not easy to have a home, and now within minutes, [they] lose everything.

“I can’t explain the extent of the disruption, I can’t explain the challenges people are facing.”

Palestinian policeman standing on the ruins of al-Jalaa’s house [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

With additional reports of @LinahAlsaafin.


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