Blinken: Israel Shared Intelligence With U.S. About Gaza Strike

A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-story building which was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes on what it said were militant targets in Gaza, leveling a six-story building in downtown Gaza City, …
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

The U.S. received “further information” from Israel concerning its decision to strike an international media office building in Gaza on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

“We have received some further information through intelligence channels,” Blinken said from Iceland on May 18 after arriving in Reykjavik to attend an Arctic Council meeting. The United States’ top diplomat declined to elaborate on the information received, saying, “That’s not something I can comment on.”

Blinken’s confirmation that Israel provided the U.S. with additional intelligence regarding its bombing of Jala Tower on Saturday comes after international news and press freedom outlets demanded Israel provide evidence for its claims that the building contained “Hamas military intelligence assets.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed Jala Tower — which housed offices for the Associated Press (AP), Al Jazeera, and other international news outlets — on May 15 after warning the building’s occupants to allow them time to vacate the premises. Jala Tower contained “Hamas military intelligence assets” which used the building’s “civilian media offices” as “human shields,” the IDF wrote in a Twitter statement.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt denied that the news agency had any prior knowledge of Hamas activity in Jala Tower in a statement issued May 15.

“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” Pruitt said.

“The Israeli government says the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets. We have called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence. 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.

The Jerusalem Post reported on May 16 that Israeli government officials had shared intelligence with the United States “showing how Hamas operated inside” Jala Tower.

“Officials in more than one government office confirmed that US President Joe Biden’s phone call to [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday [May 15] was, in part, about the bombing of the building, and that Israel showed Biden and American officials the intelligence behind the action,” according to the newspaper.

“We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a senior Israeli diplomatic source told the Post, adding, “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu “confirmed the source’s remark, when asked about The Jerusalem Post’s reporting in an interview with US TV show ‘Face the Nation,'” the newspaper noted in an update to its article on May 17.

“We share with our American friends all that intelligence and here’s the intelligence we had, it’s about Palestinian terrorist — an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization [Hamas] housed in that building [Jala Tower] that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” Netanyahu said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on May 16.

When asked by “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson if he had provided “proof of Hamas in those buildings” with Biden in a phone call the two shared on May 15, Netanyahu said, “We pass it through the intelligence services to our people, to those people.”

This statement was supported by a Times of Israel report published on Tuesday, which revealed that “senior officials in Israel’s defense establishment handed Pentagon officials classified intelligence pointing to Hamas military operations conducted from the Gaza high-rise that also housed major media outlets.” Israeli defense officials said the intelligence transfer was conducted prior to a phone call between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on May 18.

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