Al Jazeera, AP react to Gaza office's 'disturbing' destruction
''It is clear that those who are waging this war do not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza, but also to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth of what is happening in Gaza,'' said Walid al-Omari, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem bureau chief.
''But this is impossible,'' he said on air shortly after the 13-storey Jala Tower in Gaza was obliterated.
''This is a crime among a series of crimes perpetrated by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.''
President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the AP was "shocked and horrified" by the strike.
"They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit," Pruitt said in a statement.
"This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time," he added.
Footage showing the building collapsing to the ground after the Israeli air strike, sending up a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris, was broadcast live on Al Jazeera.
Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the evacuation of the building.
Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, Safwat al-Kahlout, tweeted his despair over the destruction.
''I have been working here for 11 years. I have covered many events from this building... now everything, in two seconds, just vanished,'' he said.
Israel alleged its "fighter jets attacked a high-rise building which hosted military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organisation".
"The building also hosted offices of civilian media outlets, which the Hamas terror group hides behind and uses as human shields," it said.
Al Jazeera has said it will take legal action against the Israeli military over the strike.
Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed 139 people including 39 children, and wounded 1,000 more, health officials in the coastal enclave say.
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