Explosion hits media offices in Gaza

GAZA (Reuters) – An explosion blasted a tower block in the city of Gaza that houses the offices of Reuters and other media organizations on Thursday, forcing an evacuation and disrupting coverage of increasingly fierce fighting.

Colleagues said a journalist for the Abu Dhabi television channel had been wounded.

Reuters journalists working in the building at the time said an Israeli missile or shell seemed to strike the southern side of the 13th floor of the Al-Shurouq Tower in the city center.

Israeli army spokesmen, who had been in touch with Reuters shortly before the blast, said they were checking its cause.

Reuters evacuated its bureau on the 12th floor after shrapnel penetrated the newsroom, causing no injuries.

A camera in the office that had provided non-stop live images of the Gaza cityscape throughout the war briefly continued to function, but later ceased transmission — possibly because of a fire that other cameras in the area showed pouring smoke from the upper floors of the 16-storey building.

The wounded Abu Dhabi television journalist had been working on the 14th floor. The floor below that houses a local television production company.

Reuters journalists on the spot said they had not been aware of the presence of any armed men in the building beforehand.

An Israeli army spokesman had spoken with Reuters staff in Jerusalem shortly before the explosion to check the location of the Reuters bureau in Gaza. Reuters had provided the coordinates of its office to the army at the start of the war and was assured on several occasions it was not a target.

An army spokeswoman said after the blast that she was checking into it. She said troops were engaged with Hamas guerrillas in exchanges of fire in the city and fighters had taken over a media office in the same area late on Wednesday.

In Jerusalem, the Foreign Press Association demanded the Israeli army desist from firing in the area.

“We call on the military to halt this fire immediately,” it said. “These are buildings housing journalists working for international news agencies and must not be targeted.

“We note that these buildings are well known landmarks in Gaza and that the IDF has been clearly notified of their location on several occasions,” the FPA statement added.

During the U.S. assault on Baghdad in April 2003, a Reuters cameraman was killed and three colleagues were wounded when a U.S. tank fired at the Reuters bureau in the Palestine Hotel. A Spanish television cameraman was also killed.

Check Also

43 IS militants killed planning attack on Iraqi troops

Pro-government fighters of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi thwarted on Wednesday a planned attack by Islamic State militants …