Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip entered its sixth consecutive day, with air raids hitting a refugee camp where at least 10 Palestinians – eight children, two women – were killed and flattening a high-rise building housing the offices of media organisations, including Al Jazeera.
The airstrikes on Saturday – the sixth consecutive day of hostilities between Israel and Hamas – came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate al Jalaa tower.
There was no immediate explanation beforehand for why the 15-storey building was targeted. As well as the two international media organisations, the high-rise was home to several other media outlets, offices including several internet providers, and private apartments.
The building was hit approximately six times before collapsing in plumes of black smoke, which engulfed the entire neighbourhood.
A statement from the Israel Defence Forces said the building had contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of Hamas.
“Prior to the strike, the IDF provided advance warning to civilians in the building and allowed sufficient time for them to evacuate the site,” the IDF statement said.
“Hamas deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.”
“We ran down the stairs from the 11th floor and now looking at the building from afar, praying Israeli army would eventually retract,” an AP reporter, Fares Akram, tweeted just before the tower was hit.
Earlier on Saturday, Akram published a first person piece in which he described how an Israeli bomb had destroyed his family’s farm in the northern Gaza Strip the day before. Six of his relatives, including his father, three friends and several colleagues have died in the three wars and other hostilities between Israel and Hamas, he wrote.
Meanwhile, Palestinians on Saturday gathered in parts of the occupied West Bank to protest against continued Israeli occupation and the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.
At least 140 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday. Some 950 others have been wounded. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians.
At least nine people in Israel have also been killed, with one new death reported on Saturday in Ramat Gan. The Israeli army said hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza towards various locations in Israel and they have added reinforcements near the enclave’s eastern lands.
Thousands of Palestinian families are taking shelter in United Nations-run schools in northern Gaza to escape Israeli artillery fire. The UN has said it estimates approximately 10,000 Palestinians have left their homes in Gaza amid the Israeli offensive.
Jeremy Dear, deputy general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists told Al Jazeera he was “shocked and horrified”, expressing outrage that “once again there is an attempt to cover up what is happening in Gaza by directly attacking media facilities.
“This is the third attack on a tower which houses various media, on top of that we’ve recorded 30 incidents of journalists being beaten or being detained,” Dear said.
“It is quite clear that this isn’t an accident, this is systematic targeting of media in Gaza in order to prevent reporting from there.”