Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back at journalists who claimed over the weekend they were "lucky" to escape a building in Gaza before Israeli Defense Forces destroyed it.
What is the background?
Controversy erupted on Saturday when the IDF struck a high-rise building in Gaza that housed international media, including an Associated Press bureau.
Journalists and First Amendment organizations immediately condemned the act, which Israel said was necessary because Hamas intelligence assets operated from the building. Israel later showed American intelligence officials "smoking gun" evidence proving Hamas' presence in the building.
What did Netanyahu say?
Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Netanyahu rebuked an AP reporter who claimed journalists were "lucky" to escape their offices before the building was leveled.
Netanyahu said it wasn't luck. In fact, he explained Israeli officials went to great lengths to warn occupants the airstrike was coming, a fact that was widely reported after the building was targeted.
"The interesting thing is, I would say that, you know, all the journalists, one of the, I think AP journalists said, 'We were lucky to get out' No, you weren't lucky to get out. It wasn't luck. It's because we took special pains to call people in those buildings to make sure that the premises were vacated," Netanyahu explained.
"Look, you have your own experiences, I think, in Mosul, in Fallujah, in Afghanistan. I think you can appreciate the efforts we go through in dense urban fighting when terrorists are targeting civilians who are hiding behind civilians, how difficult that is," he continued. "We do our best to avoid civilian casualties. And we did that yesterday with that building as well."
Netanyahu defends strikes on Gaza, says Israel will do "whatever it takes to restore order" youtu.be
Netanyahu also confirmed that intelligence was shown to American officials proving the building was a legitimate military target.
"We share with our American friends all that intelligence, and here's the intelligence we had: it's about Palestinian terrorists, an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians," Netanyahu explained.
"So it's a perfectly legitimate target. And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries. In fact, no deaths, no injuries whatsoever," he added. "Well, I can't say injuries, I don't know if somebody received a fragment of a stone. I don't know that. But no people were killed."
What did the AP say?
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt claimed his organization was unaware that Hamas operated from the same building as his journalists and demanded that Israel show evidence proving its claims.
"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 in a statement.
"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 claimed. "This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk."