May 15, 2021 - 9:47 pm
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza Strip-based Hamas fired more than 300 rockets at southern Israel between 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, the Israeli military said, adding that most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
Hamas said that Saturday’s salvo on central Israel was a reprisal for the killing of a Palestinian family of 10 in Gaza overnight, as Israeli military strikes targeted several top Hamas officials in the Strip.
Following the barrage on central Israel, Israeli military aircraft downed the Al-Jalaa tower in Gaza, which housed several media outlets in Gaza, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. According to Channel 12 News, towers such as Al-Jalaa also usually house “cyber centers and various communications centers” used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The military had warned the foreign journalists working out of the building to vacate it prior to the strike.
With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza — including 41 children and 23 women — and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old child.
President Joe Biden, who has called for a de-escalation but has backed Israel’s campaign, spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Around 1:30 p.m. Hamas fired a salvo at the greater Tel Aviv area, Israel’s coastal plain, and — in a first for the current hostilities — Samaria. Hamas group said on its social media accounts that the attack included “dozens of rockets.”
One man, 55, was killed when a projectile hit a building in Ramat Gan. Several other rockets hit other cities, causing property damage but no injuries.
Since Monday night, Hamas has fired upward of 2,300 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since fighting broke out.
The Israeli military said that about 380 of the rockets fired from Gaza failed to cross the border and hit areas within the coastal enclave.
“Hamas has turned residential areas in the Gaza Strip into military strongholds,” the Israeli military said on Twitter. “It uses tall buildings in Gaza for multiple military purposes such as intelligence gathering, planning attacks, command and control, and communications.
“When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target. The Israel Defense Forces struck a number of such buildings in recent days, but before we did so, we took steps to try and ensure that civilians would not be harmed.
“We called the building’s residents and warned them to leave. We sent SMS messages. We dropped “roof knocker” bombs; they make loud noises and hit only the roof. We provided sufficient time to evacuate.
“We’ll say it again: When Hamas places military assets inside such a building, it becomes a lawful military target. This is clear international law. All the multi-story buildings targeted by the IDF were used for military purposes within each building,” the Twitter thread concluded.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Israel “provide a detailed and documented justification” for the strike.
“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,” The Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement.
He added that the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and was engaged with the U.S. State Department to learn more.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.