Israel: Hamas jammed signals from destroyed media building
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, gave the most detailed explanation yet of the decision to strike the tower as he met the head of the news agency, Gary Pruitt, at its New York headquarters.
"The unit was developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defence system," Erdan said, referring to the anti-missile shield that intercepts Hamas rockets.
He offered Israel's help in rebuilding the bureau of the Associated Press, one of the world's major news agencies along with Agence France-Presse and Reuters, and said he did not imagine AP employees were aware of the alleged use of the building by Hamas.
The airstrike also destroyed the offices of Al Jazeera and Al Araby TV, the Arabic language sister TV station of The New Arab.
The owner of the Jala Tower had unsuccessfully pleaded for 10 extra minutes to let Al Jazeera retrieve its equipment but an Israeli officer rejected the request and went ahead with the strike.
"Israel did everything it could to make sure that no employees or civilians were hurt during this important operation," he said in a statement released a day after his meeting with AP executives.
"In contrast, Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that has no regard for the press. It purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in offices being used by international media outlets," he said.
Expanding on the ambassador's remarks, the Israel Defense Forces said that Hamas kept special equipment in the Jala Tower building aimed at disrupting the Iron Dome.
"The strike was designed to collapse the building in order to ensure the destruction of the special means," it said in a statement.
"The target was of high military value to Hamas and was vetted according to rigorous procedures within the IDF, and in accordance with international law."
The Associated Press called the conversation "positive and constructive" and said Erdan explained why Israel saw an "urgent threat" from the building.
"We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims," the news organisation said in a statement.
"AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public."
The AP and international media rights groups earlier called for an independent investigation into allegations that Jala Tower was used by Hamas.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Israel was deliberately trying to silence journalists covering its atrocities in the besieged enclave.
"This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza," said Joel Simon, executive director of the CPJ.
Israeli strikes killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children and some fighters, and wounded more than 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.
Rockets and other fire from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.