Rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to determine whether Israeli airstrikes that destroyed a building in Gaza housing media outlets constituted a war crime.
Israeli missiles flattened the 13-story al-Jalaa tower in Gaza City, which on Saturday housed the Al Jazeera Media Network and the US news agency The Associated Press.
Israel claimed that the building housed not only press offices, but an office of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The IDF gave the owner of the building an hour to evacuate before attacking and bringing him down on live TV.
“Deliberately targeting the media is a war crime,” Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.
“By intentionally destroying the media, the Israel Defense Forces not only inflict unacceptable material damage on press operations, they also more widely obstruct media coverage of a conflict that directly affects the civilian population.”
Deloire added: “We call on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to determine whether these airstrikes constitute war crimes.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that he had yet to see any evidence to support Israel’s claim that Hamas was operating in the building. Blinken said he urged Israel to justify the brazen attack.
“ Model of collective punishment ”
Saleh Hijazi, deputy regional director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that Israel was trying to hide what it was doing in Gaza and from the people of Gaza, adding that Amnesty was prevented from entering the enclave since 2012..
“We now have an International Criminal Court investigation open into the situation in the Palestinian territories since 2014. We call on the ICC to look into this incident,” he said, referring to the bombing of international media offices by Israeli forces.
“Even if there is a legitimate military target there, it is disproportionate to attack a building in this way,” Hijazi added.
“Such a disproportionate attack amounts to a war crime. Furthermore, it follows a model of collective punishment against the Palestinian people in Gaza. “
Meanwhile, the Associated Press editor called for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike, saying the public deserved to know the facts.
PA editor Sally Buzbee said on Sunday that the Israeli government had yet to provide clear evidence to support its attack, which completely razed al-Jalaa tower.
“We are in a situation of conflict,” said Buzbee. “We are not taking sides in this conflict. We have heard Israelis say they have evidence, we don’t know what the evidence is. We think it’s appropriate at this point that there is an independent review of what happened yesterday – an independent investigation.
The pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement also declared that the Israeli attack on Al Jazeera and the Associated Press in Gaza constituted a war crime under international law, adding that the prejudices of the mainstream media directly contributed to the Israeli impunity.
“Regardless of the turn of Israel, and the fact that Israel’s attacks on journalists are routine and systematic, this latest Israeli attack on Gaza, like many others, amounts to collective punishment, a war crime in under international law, ”he said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the attack on Sunday, saying the building also housed a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.