The IDF has revealed that Hamas had been using the al-Jalaa building in Gaza City as an electronic warfare site, where the Islamists were working on methods to obstruct operations of Israel’s life-saving Iron Dome missile defense system.
The 12-storey tower, which was brought down by an Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike during Operation Guardian of the Walls, had also housed the United States-based Associated Press (AP) and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera media group.
The purpose of the strike “was to curtail these enemy capabilities, including destroying special equipment, and preventing their use during the operation” and “designed to collapse the building in order to ensure the destruction of the special means,” said the IDF.
All residents received advanced warning of the May 15 incident. Throughout the conflict, the Israeli military used texts, phone calls, loud speaker announcements and ‘roof-knocking’ techniques to alert non-combatants to vacate premises ahead of its retaliatory attacks against Hamas infrastructure, which was often located within densely-populated civilian areas.
Earlier this week, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) admitted that a terror tunnel had been discovered beneath one of its schools in Gaza, that had sustained missile attacks during Operation Guardian of the Walls.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, met with AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt in New York on Monday. According to a statement he released following the meeting, the Israeli envoy reiterated that the al-Jalaa Towers had been used as a base by Hamas military intelligence personnel who were “developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system.”
Iron Dome interceptors shot down most of the 4,400 rockets fired by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups in Gaza during the 11-day conflict, killing 13 people in Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by the enclave’s Hamas rulers, reported the deaths of 256 people in the territory – 225 of whom the IDF maintains were terrorists.
It is also important to note that in addition to IDF retaliatory attacks, about 30% of the Palestinian rockets either misfired or fell short causing unreported damage within Gaza.
Ambassador Erdan stressed that “Israel did everything it could to make sure that no employees or civilians were hurt during this important operation.”
“In contrast,” the Israeli diplomat charged that, “Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that has no regard for the press. It purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in offices being used by international media outlets.”
Israel “doesn’t think that AP employees were aware it was being cynically used in this way by Hamas for a secret unit,” said Erdan, adding that Jerusalem has offered to help the AP to reestablish its Gaza City bureau.
The Associated Press continues to assert that it has yet to receive evidence to support Israel’s claims that a Hamas presence in the building posed an urgent threat and has called for an independent investigation.