The offices of Sky News in Gaza suffered a direct missile hit yesterday morning – one of two buildings hosting international media targeted by the Israeli army.
A cameraman had to have his leg amputated as a result of his injuries and five other journalists were wounded in the pre-dawn attack on the high-rise building in the heart of the heavily populated city.
The attacks also damaged offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to the Islamists.
The Israeli Defence Forces last night maintained the media centres were legitimate targets as they hosted ‘communication antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity against the State of Israel’.But yesterday Sky News reporter Sam Kiley described how the rocket ‘shredded’ the stairwell between the 14th and 15th floor of the Al-Shuruq building used by the British TV news network, ITN and other foreign media.
Mr Kiley, 48, was sleeping in the office when the missile struck shortly before 7am local time. The windows were blown and shards of glass and debris were scattered onto the street below.
The Sky News Middle East correspondent said: ‘The missile hit the floor above us. There was a big flash of light and the sound of breaking glass.’
He added: ‘This is the headquarters of many of the international media in Gaza City including Sky News Arabia which has a permanent bureau here which we are using during this conflict.’
Pointing to a hole in the wall, Mr Kiley continued: ‘This is the result of one of two shells that were fired at about ten to seven local time.
‘The Israelis say they were targeting an antenna that is on the roof of the building. This is the stairwell between the 14th and 15th floor. Anyone on this stairwell would have been shredded.’ Hamas Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra added: ‘At least six journalists were wounded when Israeli warplanes hit the TV offices in building in Gaza City.’
No one from ITN was in the building at the time.
Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, condemned the attacks.
A spokesman said: ‘This attack on journalists and freedom of expression reflects Israel’s disdain for international law and the little value it affords the lives of Palestinians.
‘Last Thursday, the Israeli government said there is no free media in Gaza which is an insult to the brave journalists covering the situation from there.
‘It would now seem that some Israelis want to make sure that there is no free media in Gaza.’
Meanwhile the Israel military claimed the offices of two TV station sympathetic to Hamas – Al Aqsa and Lebanese broadcaster Al Quds – were legitimate targets as militant Palestinian groups had placed communication equipment on the buildings’ rooftops.
NATO criticised for TV bombing in 1999
NATO was severely criticised for bombing of the studios of government-run Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade that killed 16 at the height of the Kosovo War in April 1999.
In the same month NATO also deliberately bombed the Chinese Embassy in the Serbian capital after discovering it was being used to transmit Yugoslav military communications.
An Israeli government official said: ‘Al Aqsa is an integral part of the Hamas military machine. It is part of Hamas’ command and control.’
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich accused Hamas of using journalists as ‘human shields’ and urged news organisations to steer clear of Hamas bases and facilities.
And she acknowledged that civilians were in danger but said Palestinian militant groups were to blame.
Lt Col Leibovich said: ‘One of the strategies of Hamas, not only Hamas, but Islamic Jihad as well, is locating large amounts of munitions underneath civilian homes. Many times this is the reason for this big damage or collateral damage.’