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Israel bombs Gaza building used by Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera and AP

MEE reporter describes fleeing building in Gaza just an hour before it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike
A still captured on live video shows the aftermath of the bombing of the building in Gaza (MEE)

Israel on Saturday bombed a building in Gaza used by a number of news outlets, including Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.

Reporters and media workers said they had fled the al-Jalaa tower in Gaza City after being issued a one-hour notice by the Israeli army, which later destroyed the building.

Mohammed al-Hajjar, a photojournalist for MEE, was among those who left the building.

Live: Israel bombs Gaza building used by Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera and AP after one-hour ultimatum
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Speaking by phone, he said he had left his laptop behind but had managed to grab his hard-drive and camera. He said the evacuation was a scene of panic and chaos as people rushed to take whatever they could and get out as best as they could.

Returning to re-inspect the remains, there was only wreckage.

"There's nothing left but our memories," he said.

So far, no casualties have been reported.

The 12-storey building contained 60 residential units, with a number of offices for international media including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, as well as Arab and local press.

In a statement, the Israeli army said it had struck the building becuase it housed "entities belonging to the military intelligence of the terrorist organization Hamas" without elaborating.

A number of journalists tweeted about the incoming strike.

"And now bombs could fall on our office. We ran down the stairs from the 11th floor and now looking at the building from afar, praying Israeli army would eventually retract," wrote Fares Akram, AP's Gaza correspondent.

Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera's senior reporter in Gaza, told MEE that the bombing of their office would "not cover the image of the truth, nor will it silence it".

"Regardless of why Israel bombed the building, we reaffirm that we will continue to do our job, fulfil our duty and deliver the message, even if we have to do it from the street or the car or any other place," he said.

"As long as journalists are alive, healthy and determined to do their jobs, they will continue this mission of covering the truth as if this building was still standing."

Shortly before the strike, Al Jazeera aired a phone call between the owner of al-Jalaa and an Israeli intelligence officer.

'[The attack] raises the spectre that the Israeli army are liberally attacking media facilities to distrupt coverage of what is happening in Gaza and the human suffering there'

- Ignacio Miguel Delgado, Committee to Protect Journalists

The owner, named by Al Jazeera as Abu Hossam, asked to be given more time to evacuate equipment from the offices.

"There's no bad people here, just journalists," he was quoted as saying. "Just give us 10 more mins to get the cameras out."

The intelligence officer declined his request.

"Do what you want, we can't stop you. Our lives' work is gone, our memories are gone, our lives are gone, we have God to turn to," said Hossam.

Health officials in the enclave said Israeli air and artillery strikes since Monday have killed 139 people including 39 children in Gaza while more than 1,000 have been wounded.

Ignacio Miguel Delgado, Middle East and North Africa representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), condemned the attack on the building in Gaza and called for accountability.

He told MEE the attack on the building "raises the spectre that the Israeli army are liberally attacking media facilities to distrupt coverage of what is happening in Gaza and the human suffering there".

"We would like the Israeli authorities to give a detailed and documented justification for this military attack on a civilian facility, considering they know exactly what kind of media outlets are operating there and this may be also a violation of international humanitarian law," he said.

In a statement released on Twitter, the White House said it had communicated to Israel that "ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility."

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