A tower block in Gaza, a self-governing territory that borders Israel, which houses the offices of the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera news outlets, has collapsed after being hit by an Israeli strike.
The building had been evacuated beforehand after the owner received a warning from Israel, Reuters news agency reported.
The building – which contained other offices and apartments as well – was evacuated before the strike after a warning from Israeli authorities.
AP quoted the owner of the building, Jawwad Mehdi, as saying he was told to make sure all residents had left. He was told he had an hour to ensure the building was evacuated.
Israel’s military has confirmed that it fired missiles at a Gaza tower block housing the offices of news outlets Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.
In a statement published on Twitter shortly after the tower was levelled down, Israel said the building had housed “military assets” belonging to Hamas, which had used the occupants as “human shields”.
The strike on the building housing media offices in Gaza City came on Saturday afternoon after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the building was about to be hit.
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.
In a phone call with the officer, AFP heard him beg for an extra 10 minutes to allow journalists to retrieve their equipment before leaving. “Give us 10 extra minutes,” he urged, but the officer on the other end of the line refused.
Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.
“This channel will not be silenced. Al Jazeera will not be silenced,” Al Jazeera English presenter, Halla Mohieddeen said with emotion.
“We can guarantee you that right now.”
Al Jazeera correspondent, Safwat al-Kahlout, who had been working out of the offices in Gaza City for 11 years, said: “I’ve been covering many events from this building, we’ve lived personal professional experiences; now everything, in two seconds, just vanished”.
The crisis comes after weeks of spiralling Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory airstrikes.
At least 136 people have been killed in Gaza and eight have died in Israel since the fighting began.
This week’s violence in Gaza and Israel is the worst since 2014.
Additional reporting from the BBC