Top US diplomat Antony Blinken says he has not seen any information from Israel, echoing AP executive editor's comments that no clear evidence was seen on legitimacy of air strikes on Al Jalaa Tower housing AP and other media outlets.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he has asked Israel for any evidence of Gaza's governors Hamas operating in a building housing news bureaus that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike over the weekend, but hasn't seen any.
Blinken spoke at a news conference in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday, as pressure is increasing on the Biden administration to ask for a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel destroyed a building housing The Associated Press and Al Jazeera and claimed that Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the building a "perfectly legitimate target" and said that Israel passes such evidence through intelligence channels.
"Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it," Blinken said. He declined to discuss specific intelligence, saying he "will leave it to others to characterise if any information has been shared and our assessment that information."
But he said, "I have not seen any information provided."
Blinken's comments came after UN Security Council diplomats and Muslim foreign ministers convened emergency weekend meetings to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed in Palestine as Israeli warplanes carried out some of the deadliest single attacks in Gaza.
AP seeks independent investigation
Meanwhile, the Associated Press top editor called for an independent investigation into the Israeli air strike, saying the public deserves to know the facts.
Separately, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel's bombing of a building housing the media organisations as a possible war crime.
Sally Buzbee, AP's executive editor, said on Sunday that the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which levelled the 12-storey 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.
'We don’t know what that evidence is'
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.
Buzbee said the AP journalists were “rattled” after the air strike 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.
THREAD This Sunday, we formally seized the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, about the bombing of local and international media installations and equipment in #Gaza since May 11, which we consider to be war crimes. https://t.co/nrk3k7rcsg pic.twitter.com/Lpxr7tNjCm— Christophe Deloire (@cdeloire) May 16, 2021
War crimes probe
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF, said in a letter to the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 international and local media organisations have been destroyed over the past six days.
RSF said it had strong reason to believe that the Israeli military’s “intentional targeting of media organisations and intentional destruction of their equipment” could violate one of the court’s statutes. It said the attacks serve “to reduce, if not neutralise, the media’s capacity to inform the public.”
RSF asked the international court, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, to include the recent attacks in a war crimes probe opened in March into Israel’s practices in Palestinian territories.