AFP calls for investigation over strike on Gaza bureau

AFP is one of the few international media organisations to have an office in the Gaza Strip (Bashar TALEB)
AFP is one of the few international media organisations to have an office in the Gaza Strip (Bashar TALEB)

AFP on Saturday called on Israel for "an in-depth and transparent investigation" into the exact involvement of its army after a strike severely damaged its office in Gaza City, which has been shelled for weeks.

AFP "has taken note of the recent statements from the Israeli army spokesman concerning 'an army strike nearby (the AFP office) that might have caused debris'," it said in a statement.

However, "this statement on its own does not explain the extent of the damage caused to the AFP bureau", located on the top floors of an 11-storey building, it said of Thursday's incident.

"A strike on the offices of an international news agency sends a deeply troubling message to all the journalists working in such difficult conditions in Gaza," said AFP Chairman and CEO Fabrice Fries.

"It is essential that all efforts are made to protect media in Gaza," he added.

According to media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), more than 30 journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas.

RSF has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court alleging war crimes committed against Palestinian journalists in Gaza.

- Significant damage -

AFP is one of the few international media organisations to have an office in the Gaza Strip.

It employs a total of nine people there and is "redoubling its efforts to allow employees and their families to evacuate if they wish to leave".

AFP's live video feed broadcasting 24/7 from Gaza City has been temporarily suspended since Saturday, for reasons outside AFP's control.

An AFP employee who visited the office on Friday said an explosive projectile appeared to have entered the technician's office in the bureau horizontally from east to west.

The strike destroyed the wall opposite the window and caused significant damage to the adjacent room and other doors. It also punctured water tanks on the roof.

"According to the current information we hold, it seems that there was a IDF (Israel Defense Forces) strike near the building to eliminate an immediate threat," a spokesperson said in a statement Friday.

"The building was not targeted in any way by the IDF and... we do not have any record of a missed target in that strike," the statement said.

"There was an IDF strike nearby that might have caused debris."

- 'Extraordinary work' -

Asked about the attack during a news conference in Tel Aviv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that journalists in Gaza must be protected as they report on the war.

"It's vitally important how Israel does this (conducts the war), including with the highest regard for the protection of civilians, and that of course includes journalists," Blinken told reporters.

He said journalists were "doing extraordinary work under the most dangerous conditions to tell the story to the world".

The French foreign affairs ministry issued a statement Friday condemning "the attacks against United Nations sites and humanitarian workers... as well as on media headquarters".

Israeli forces have encircled Gaza's largest city, vowing to crush Hamas in retaliation for bloody October 7 raids into southern Israel that officials say killed around 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

In the deadliest attack in Israel's history, Hamas gunmen also took more than 240 hostages.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,480 Gazans, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign.