On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike targeted a tower housing the offices of various media outlets in Gaza City.
The video (below) shows the moment the high-rise collapsed. It was home to the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, among others. It was also a residential apartment complex.
An hour earlier, the military warned anyone inside to evacuate.
Israel didn’t immediately offer an explanation, but for many in the journalistic community, the message was clear enough. The AP called it “the latest step to silence reporting from the territory.”
Obviously, the situation was already quite dire. By every account, Israel is descending into chaos. Vigilantism and rioting have intensified, fueling an escalation of Arab-Jewish violence in some mixed cities. In Lod, where a state of emergency was declared earlier this week, echoes of 1948 are loud.
As the Times put it Friday evening, this round of violence “has metastasized with startling velocity compared with previous Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and threaten[s] the veneer of Israeli society in ways not seen before.”
Although both Hamas and Israeli officials have tentatively signaled they’d consider a ceasefire, the situation worsened materially on Saturday, perhaps suggesting both sides are keen to secure leverage. The targeting of the media tower “came hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza City killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children,” the AP said, recounting “the deadliest single strike of the current conflict.”
As ever, the clash is hopelessly lopsided. Hamas has lobbed hundreds of rockets into Israel, which took fire from south Lebanon and Syria Friday as well. But the death toll tells the story. Outgunned, absurdly overmatched and facing an adversary with no qualms about collateral damage, Hamas’s efforts to gain leverage invariably beget horrific losses. At least 39 children are dead in Gaza, for example. Eight kids died in Saturday’s strike (on the refugee camp) alone. That matched the total number of Israelis killed this week in what is now a multi-front melee.
On Friday, the Israeli military detailed one operation ostensibly designed to disable a network of tunnels used by Hamas. 160 Israeli warplanes participated, dropping an average of two tons of explosives per minute for 40 minutes. “As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties,” a spokesman for the military said. “Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn’t feasible this time,” he added.
That strike reportedly killed an entire family. Specifically, Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children were all killed when “an Israeli warplane reduced [a] building to rubble.” One relative said simply, “It was a massacre.”
The decision to directly target international media outlets will doubtlessly be decried. “Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an anchorwoman said on air.
Both Hamas and Netanyahu (whose position is tenuous) are seen benefitting politically from the violence. For Gazans, an existence of endless precarity is now immeasurably worse.
At some point, regardless of the domestic political fallout, Joe Biden may have to “advise” Israel to cease and desist. He missed at least one such opportunity this week. One imagines he’ll be picking up the phone again soon enough.