Israel targeting civilian buildings in Gaza airstrikes

Israel targeting civilian buildings in Gaza airstrikes
In-depth: AlAqsa TV, the Hamas-run public TV station, was destroyed yet again, reports Rami Almeghari.
5 min read
13 November, 2018
AlAqsa TV was targeted in an Israeli airstrike [Getty]

In Gaza City, reporters, activists and local residents gathered on Tuesday morning right on top of the rubble of a four-storey building that had until the night before served as Al Aqsa TV, the Hamas-run public TV station.

The building had been pounded by Israeli missiles on Monday night.

The gathering was a bid of support and message of solidarity with the local TV station, on air for 13 years until Monday night's airstrike, amid yet another Israeli military escalation against the embattled Gaza Strip.

Raji Alhems is head of public relations and a long-time broadcaster with AlAqsa TV. He told The New Arab that the destruction of the building and equipment was ony going to increase the resilience of his staff.

"Such an institution has been a mouthpiece for the Palestinian truth from Gaza to the outside world," he said. "Such a truth should continue to be delivered to the whole world, despite the latest cruel attack by Israel. This is not the first time that the Zionist occupation targets our TV station. We feel sorry for the silence by the international community towards such crimes against humanity."

It is the fourth time in a decade that the building housing Al Aqsa TV has been destroyed by Israel.

"In fact, every time they deliberately knock down our building, we rise up for the ashes and show up, stronger than before. And this time, only minutes after the building was destroyed, we were able to go on-air with the help of some others and from a different location," Alhems told The New Arab.

Minutes after the airstrike, several local media production studios offered help to the Al Aqsa team.

According to Alhems, financial losses due to the Israeli attack against the station are estimated at $2 million, including the building and equipment destroyed.

In the meantime, director of the Hamas-run Government Press Office in Gaza, Salama Ma'rouf, told The New Arab that his office had sent out letters to concerned Arab and international bodies, condemning the attack.

"We are condemning such an attack in the strongest terms and we call upon all concerned media and journalistic, as well as legal, bodies around the globe to help bring the Zionist occupation to justice," Marouf told The New Arab on Tuesday.

Not only was the Al Aqsa TV building completely destroyed in the intense air raids on Gaza, but also several residential buildings across the coastal enclave, including the Alyazjy five-storey residential building in the heart of Gaza City.

Recent Israeli attacks on Gaza follow an Israeli army infiltration into the south-eastern Khan Younis city, a covert ground operation which facilitated the killing of two senior members of Hamas' military wing, and five other fighters, in an airstrike.

According to a statement from the Al-Qassam Brigade - the armed wing of Hamas - the group's fighters spotted a suspicious civilian vehicle on Sunday evening, just inside a populated area east of Khan Younis. Hamas militants discovered an armed Israeli cell inside the vehicle, opening fire on the troops and pursuing the vehicle to the Israeli border.

Israeli military sources said one senior Israeli army officer had been killed and another soldier was wounded during a "security mission", east of Khan Younis.

Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, have since pounded nearby Israeli communities with more than 300 rockets, according to local media reports. Israeli media reports suggest that at least one man was killed and fifty others wounded - though the extent of injuries for the majority was listed as "panic".

The Israeli military, in turn, has carried out at least 100 air raids on different locations in Gaza, killing at least six Palestinians and wounding several more, along with destroying several Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions.

The flare up of conflict comes amid continued mediation efforts by Egyptian, Qatari and United Nations officials to restore calm to the region. Last Friday, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver millions of US dollars to pay salaries of Hamas-appointed employees.

"The Palestinian resistance is in a state of defence. The resistance now takes into account all possible scenarios," Mahmoud Alajramy, a Gaza-based political analyst told The New Arab.

"This is seen from the resistance's position that once Israel escalates its attacks against the region, the resistance will launch rockets deeper inside Israel.

The Israeli government is in a real crisis, it is unable to move forward by using infantry troops and reoccupying Gaza. I think that the Israeli army's experience with previous Israeli attacks in Gaza indicates that Israel can not go further. If they do, this might cause Israel to be a stake that can not be sorted out."

Over the past 24 hours, Palestinian groups have warned Israel against upscaling their attacks on the Gaza Strip. The militants say their rockets are capable of reaching Israeli cities more than 50km from Gaza's borders.

Ashkelon is just 12 kilometres from northern Gaza, militants warned.

Throughout the Gaza Strip, schools, universities and civil service facilities have been shut down. Only hospitals and primary care clinics remain open.

In the meantime, the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry has sent shipments of medicines and medical supplies to Gaza, amid expectations that current spate of fighting could yet get much worse.

Israeli media reports suggest a meeting of high-ranking Israeli military and political officials is discussing "all possible scenarios" in Gaza. Some Israeli officials believe Israel should restore its deterrence policy vis-a-vis the Islamist Hamas, which Israel holds responsible for all rocket fire from the territory.

Egyptian mediators called on Israel to show restraint, calls echoed by Jordan. Meanwhile, Russia blamed Israel for the escalation of violence.

At time of publication, a tentative ceasefire had been announced on Tuesday evening, with Palestinian militant groups issuing a joint statement:

"Egypt's efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy. The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it."

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he wanted airstrikes to continue regardless.

Fawzi Barhoum, a senior spokesperson for the ruling Hamas party in Gaza told The New Arab: "The resistance only respects the will of the Palestinian people and honours the right to defend the Gaza Strip against Israeli attacks. For the moment, the resistance on the ground has the upper hand and we are doing an assessment of the situation, around the clock."

Since 2008, Israel has carried out three large-scale attacks on Gaza under the pretext of cracking down on armed Palestinian groups, including the ruling Hamas party, to compel them to stop all rocket fire.

Those campaigns have killed thousands of Palestinian men, women and children, and rendered many thousands of buildings and points of infrastructure destroyed.

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari