Gaza’s Ministry of Government Information reported six high-rise buildings destroyed by Israeli fighter jets since 10 May. These buildings comprise six of the 184 residential and commercial properties that have been destroyed during the airstrikes. Thirty-three of them house media institutions, including the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets.
The targeting of media outlets during conflict constitutes a war crime; despite premeditated warning of the airstrike and the building’s evacuation, its destruction was a deliberate attack on Gaza’s ability to inform and report on future attacks. A call between an Israeli intelligence officer and the owner of the Jalaa building was made public on live TV. It showed that, while the Israeli officer allowed them enough time for employees to evacuate, they were not given enough time to evacuate their equipment, which was quickly destroyed. It was also the target of the airstrike, hindering journalists and international media officers’ ability to report on the airstrikes and ongoing occupation of Palestine. Press freedom advocates have condemned the targeted attacks with Aidan White, founder of the Ethical Journalism Network, stating, “The attack on the building that we have seen is a shocking and… catastrophic attempt to shut down media, to silence criticism, and worst of all, to create a cloak of secrecy around this conflict.”
Israeli justified the bombing of the building by claiming it housed military assets of Hamas; it has failed, however, to provide any evidence that Hamas had attachments or associations to the building. The buildings Israel has targeted all include some vital infrastructure. Aside from media, this includes water, sanitation and hygiene services for thousands of people, displacing 72,000 people in the process. The targeting of civilian areas along the Gaza Strip has resulted in over 200 deaths. These deaths were acknowledged by the Israeli military as “unfortunate unintended civilian casualties,” and thus buildings were often given warnings in advance of the deployment of bombs and organized strikes. However, like the case of al-Jalaa media tower, people do not need to be directly targeted to be affected. The inability for these media stations to cover subsequent attacks and warn surrounding buildings will lead to more casualties.
Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a political and economic analyst, outlined the intentions behind the targeted attacks. He claimed that, “[T]hese targets, which have directly affected civilians immeasurably, are aimed to damage the reputation of the armed groups by creating a gap between them in terms of support, driving Palestinians to demand these groups to stop firing rockets at Israel means a loss of popular support, and that is what Israel is banking on.”
Prior warning of impending airstrikes are not given in all deliberate attacks on residential buildings. Advisor to Al-Quds University Human Rights Clinic, Saleh Higazi publicly outlined the International Humanitarian Law, which states that “all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives.” These attacks, no matter how targeted, involve bombs with vast blast radiuses. In populated areas, this mean inevitable loss of civilian life.
The imagery of large high rise buildings, “pancaking,” and perfectly falling into a cloud of flaming smoke amidst a densely populated city, is often done deliberately. Israel’s newscasts and online profiles report the targeted destruction, to show its strength and ability in targeting a specific place and destroying it in a matter of minutes. In one attack, Israeli surveillance planes destroyed three landmark buildings in central Gaza. Each of the three towers were targeted for specific reasons, and all destroyed to weaken an already devastated economy, and inhibit Palestinian media coverage of the occupation.
Hanadi, one of the buildings targeted, housed both residential apartments and commercial offices. Before fighter jets destroyed the buildings and foundations, several warning missiles were fired from unmanned surveillance jets. Planet for Digital Solutions, a business within the building, was unable to evacuate their equipment. A second building only two kilometers away was also targeted. Fighter jets hit the Al-Johara building with a succession of missiles, causing extensive damage to the nine-story tower. Al-Johara houses many media and production companies, along with a few residential apartments. Nearby structures that housed the Al Jazeera media network also suffered deliberate damages.
Both buildings were not only targeted for their ties to media distribution, but also because they are large businesses that provide employment opportunities for Gaza’s population. After the flattening of another building, surveillance missiles targeted a commercial street directly opposite Shorouq. None of these targeted buildings housed arsenals or materials of fighting factions within Gaza, and were not legitimate targets for the Israeli defense force. Israeli pilots said the building’s flattening was a way for Israel to vent frustration over the returned airstrikes from Gaza into its cities, and the success of the Gaze Intifada (resistance movements).
Israel’s targeted attack on media outlets and prominent buildings in Gaza under the guise of eliminating militant targets continues to demoralize Palestinians, and inhibit their ability to document the ongoing occupation. Israel needs to be held accountable for its deliberate attacks on Palestinian media outlets and journalists. International protection should also be enforced on Palestine’s ability to document the ongoing occupation and deliver its account of the war.