Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman directly contradicted Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt, who claimed Saturday the AP was unaware that Hamas terrorists were using the same building in Gaza City where AP and other media outlets housed their Gaza bureaus.
What did Pruitt claim?
After Israeli Defense Forces targeted a high-rise building in Gaza Saturday, which housed an AP bureau along with offices for other media outlets including Al Jazeera, the IDF revealed Hamas intelligence forces also occupied the building.
In a statement, Pruitt claimed his staffers "had no indication" Hamas worked from the building, and demanded Israel reveal evidence to prove terrorists, in fact, occupied the building.
"The Israeli government says the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets. We have called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence," Pruitt said.
"AP's bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building," he added. "This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk."
But what did Friedman say?
The former AP journalist revealed in a 2014 article for the Atlantic that AP journalists knew about the presence of Hamas terrorists, explaining how Hamas uses the media to disseminate its narrative about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
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 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, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. (This happened.) Hamas fighters would burst into the AP's Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn't report it. (This also happened.) Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying. (This too happened; the information comes from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of these incidents.)
[Paul] Colford, the AP spokesman, confirmed that armed militants entered the AP's Gaza office in the early days of the war to complain about a photo showing the location of a rocket launch, though he said that Hamas claimed that the men "did not represent the group." The AP "does not report many interactions with militias, armies, thugs or governments," he wrote. "These incidents are part of the challenge of getting out the news—and not themselves news."
Friedman also explained that Hamas knows "international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs" and that reporters can "be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation."
What did Israel say?
A source close to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Jerusalem Post that Israeli officials provided the U.S. government with evidence to corroborate their claim that Hamas military assets operated from of the building.
"We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building," the source said. "I understand they found the explanation satisfactory."
In fact, officials in multiple Israeli government agencies confirmed the call that took place between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday was to, in part, show American officials the intelligence confirming Hamas' presence inside the building.
During the call, Biden reaffirmed his "strong support for Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas," Reuters reported.