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AP Top Editor: Probe Israeli Airstrike 05/17 06:17

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Associated Press' top editor is calling for an 
independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and 
destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other 
media, 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 
organizations as a possible war crime.

   Sally Buzbee, AP's executive editor, said Sunday 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.

   "We're in the middle of fighting," Conricus said Sunday. "That's in process 
and I'm sure in due time that information will be presented."

   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would share any evidence of 
Hamas' presence in the targeted building through intelligence channels. But 
neither the White House nor the State Department would say if any American 
official had seen it.

   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.

   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."

   The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF, 
said in a letter to the court's chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 
international and local media organizations 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 organizations and intentional destruction of 
their equipment" could violate one of the court's statutes. It said the attacks 
serve "to reduce, if not neutralize, 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.

   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."

 
 
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