Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton has taken aim at the Associated Press for allegedly sharing the same building as Hamas.
The revelation was made after the Israeli Defense Force operated a military strike against a building in Gaza which Israel claimed also housed offices for the terrorist organization.
There was outcry from journalists over the weekend after the strike blew up the Gaza bureau of the Associated Press and television network Al Jazeera.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has suggested the Associated Press knew that Hamas had offices in the Gaza tower where the AP was housed for 15 years
Nobody was injured or killed in the strike after reporters and residents were warned an hour in advance that a strike was about to take place.
The Associated Press, who have been based in the building for 15 years, denied knowing of Hamas’ presence.
Senator Cotton expressed a degree of skepticism while speaking on the Senate floor on Monday.
‘Why is the Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas?’ Cotton asked. ‘Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbors were.’
‘Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a US-designated terrorist organization? Did the AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas’ misdeeds?’
Israeli forces Saturday destroyed a tower in Gaza that house the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, and other media organizations
‘I submit that the AP has some uncomfortable questions to answer, yet the AP and its fellow journalists are in high dudgeon about Israel’s wholly appropriate airstrike,’ Cotton continued.
‘Leave it to whiny reporters to make themselves the story and the victim when terrorists are shooting missiles at innocent civilians.’
Journalists are asking for Israel to detail the intelligence it had that suggested Hamas was located in the same building as the international media outlets.
AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the Saturday airstrike, which was preceded by a phone call from the Israeli military that gave the building’s occupants one hour to get out.
‘As we have said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike,’ Pruitt said in a statement. ‘This is something we check as best we can. We do not know what the Israeli evidence [of the Hamas presence] shows, and we want to know.’
But a 2014 report in The Atlantic written by journalist Matti Freidman suggested Associated Press were well aware of Hamas’s presence in the building – and chose not to report it.
‘When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press,’ the article states, referring to an outbreak of fighting that year
Writing in The Atlantic in 2014, journalist Matti Friedman said ‘Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it’
‘The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it,’ Freidman wrote.
The journalist at the time claimed that Hamas fighters would regularly ‘burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it.’
The Atlantic article also appeared to show journalists had been aware of their presence since at least 2014.
The AP came were criticized on social media for the apparent oversight.
One person shared The Atlantic article on Twitter, and commented: ‘@AP didn’t know about sharing a building w/ Hamas for 15 years?’
‘Doesn’t say much for their reporting abilities if they missed a Hamas staging office a floor away,’ another tweeted.
AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the Saturday airstrike, which was preceded by a phone call from the Israeli military that gave the building’s occupants one hour to get out
President Joe Biden has strongly defended Israel’s right to defend itself because of the repeated rocket barrages from Hamas, which the United States views as a terrorist organization.
But the administration did not support Israel’s destruction of the Gaza high-rise that housed the AP and Al Jazeera offices.
The Biden administration viewed the strike on the building as a major strategic mistake, particularly because it turned some public opinion against Israel in the United States, the source said.
The Gaza building attack has also prompted some Democratic lawmakers to call foul.
‘The increasing loss of civilian lives of Palestinians and Israelis is unconscionable and unacceptable,’ said Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro.
Smoke rises as the building collapses after an Israeli airstrike hits Al-Jalaa tower, which housed apartments and several media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera
‘I´m particularly disturbed by the disproportionate bombing of the Gaza Strip, including the deaths of at least 92 women and children and the targeting of the Associated Press building.’
Separately, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel´s bombing of a building housing the media organizations as a possible war crime.
Sally Buzbee, AP´s executive editor, said that the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which leveled the 12-story al-Jalaa tower.
The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was compiling evidence for the U.S. but declined to commit to providing it within the next two days.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he hasn’t yet seen any evidence supporting Israel’s claim that Hamas operated in the building
On Sunday, Conricus said, ‘We´re in the middle of fighting. That´s in process and I´m sure in due time that information will be presented.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he hasn’t yet seen any evidence supporting Israel’s claim that Hamas operated in the building.
Buzbee said the AP has had offices in al-Jalaa tower for 15 years and never was informed or had any indication that Hamas might be in the building. She said the facts must be laid out.
‘We are in a conflict situation,’ Buzbee said. ‘We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don´t know what that evidence is.’
‘We think it´s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday – an independent investigation,’ she added.
The Biden administration viewed the strike on the AP building as a major strategic mistake, particularly because it turned some public opinion against Israel in the United States
In remarks Sunday, Netanyahu repeated Israel´s claim that the building housed an intelligence office of Hamas. Asked if he had relayed supporting evidence of that in a call with President Joe Biden on Saturday, Netanyahu said that ‘we pass it through our intelligence people.’
Buzbee said the AP journalists were ‘rattled’ after the airstrike but are doing fine and reporting the news. She expressed concern about the impact on news coverage.
‘This does impact the world´s right to know what is happening on both sides of the conflict in real time,’ she said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone Saturday with AP´s president and CEO, Gary Pruitt. The State Department said Blinken offered ‘his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones.’
Buzbee and Conricus spoke on CNN´s ‘Reliable Sources’ and Netanyahu was on CBS´ ‘Face the Nation.’