Downing Street: We’re seeking answers from Israel over airstrike on Associated Press office block in Gaza

·4-min read
<p>A woman stands near the rubble of the building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on Saturday that housed The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets</p> (AP)

A woman stands near the rubble of the building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on Saturday that housed The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets

(AP)

The UK government is seeking answers from Israel about attacks which destroyed the building housing the Associated Press and other media outlets in Gaza.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman on Monday said: "We are deeply concerned by UN reports that more than 23 schools and 500 homes as well as medical facilities and media offices have been destroyed or seriously damaged in Gaza.

"Israel has a legitimate right to defend its citizens from attack but in doing so it must make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and military action must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law.

"We are also concerned by reports that Hamas is again using civilian infrastructure and populations as cover for its operations."

On the destruction of the AP and Al Jazeera offices, the spokesman added: "We are in contact with our US and European counterparts and urgently seeking more information from the Israeli government on this."

The comments came as America’s top diplomat said he had not seen any evidence to back up claims it was a base for Hamas.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has asked Israel for justification for the strike.

A Palestinian firefighter reacts as he participates in efforts to put out a fire at a sponge factory after it was hit by Israeli artillery shellsREUTERS
A Palestinian firefighter reacts as he participates in efforts to put out a fire at a sponge factory after it was hit by Israeli artillery shellsREUTERS

He was speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen as calls mounted for the Biden administration to ask for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel destroyed a building housing The Associated Press and other media outlets on Saturday, claiming that the Palestinian militant group Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office.

The latest fighting saw Israeli war planes unleash a series of heavy air strikes on Gaza City early on Monday morning shortly after Hamas launched rockets into civilian areas of Israel, destroying a synagogue.

Explosions rocked the city for 10 minutes in the Israeli raid that was heavier, over a wider area and longer than a series of air strikes on Sunday in which 42 Palestinians were killed — the deadliest day of the recent conflict so far.

In a televised address, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country’s attacks by more than 50 jets were continuing at “full-force”, and he “wants to levy a heavy price” on the Hamas militant group.

Israeli jets bombed what the military said was a tunnel system used by Hamas. Witnesses said roads, security buildings and training camps had been attacked. Israeli aircraft struck nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders, the military said. Some of the homes were used for weapons storage, it said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave early on MondayAFP via Getty Images
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave early on MondayAFP via Getty Images

Gaza’s mayor, Yahya Sarraj, told Al Jazeera TV that the air strikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure. “If the aggression continues we expect conditions to become worse,” he said. He also warned that the territory was running low on fuel and other supplies.

The United Nations has warned that Gaza’s sole power station is at risk of running out of fuel. The territory already experiences daily power outages of between eight and 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable.

Hamas earlier launched rockets from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian districts in Israel. One hit a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said, with no injuries reported.

Israeli forces yesterday shot dead a Palestinian driver who crashed his car into a police roadblock, injuring six officers. The attack occurred at Sheikh Jarrah, in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, which is the focus of a court case in which several Palestinian families could be evicted from homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

The current fighting broke out last Monday when Hamas fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. The protests were focused on the heavy-handed policing of a flashpoint holy site during Ramadan and the threatened evictions.

Hostilities have repeatedly escalated since, marking the worst fighting in the territory since 2014. The Israeli military has launched hundreds of air strikes it says were targeting Hamas. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.

Gaza officials said 16 women and 10 children were among the 42 people who died in yesterday’s air strikes when buildings were hit. A six-year-old girl was rescued from the rubble of her home after being trapped for seven hours in a bombing that killed her mother and all four of her siblings. She was later reunited with her father in hospital.

The overall death toll in Gaza now stands at 197, including 58 children and 34 women, with 1,230 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry. Israel said dozens of militants were among the dead.

Ten people, including two children, have been killed in rocket attacks on Israel since the fighting began last Monday, Israel said. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that further fighting could plunge the region into an “uncontainable crisis”. He pleaded for an immediate end to the “utterly appalling” violence.

Egypt’s President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, said his country was “going to great lengths to reach a ceasefire... and hope still exists”.

Read More

Israel-Gaza conflict: Joe Biden expresses support for ceasefire

Two arrested in connection with attack on rabbi in north London

Police step up patrols after Rabbi attacked by teens in Chigwell