Follow the bouncing ball. On Sunday the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel had showed the U.S. evidence that the tower it struck in Gaza last weekend, which contained the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, really was being used by Hamas. The next day Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he hadn’t personally seen any such evidence.
Then, last night, Blinken offered an update:
Secretary Blinken tells @John_Hudson Israel provided US w/ intel about its claim Hamas operated out of Gaza building housing AP, other outlets that was destroyed. "It's my understanding we've received some further info through intelligence channels." Doesn't elaborate further.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 18, 2021
A leak to Politico soon followed:
Israel’s operations drew heightened criticism in recent days after its armed forces leveled a building that housed several media offices, including that of The Associated Press. Israel – which warned people to evacuate the building about an hour before striking it – has said it has shared information with the United States showing that Hamas based some of its assets in that facility.
The person familiar with the situation confirmed that Israel has shared some classified intelligence with America about the building, but declined to characterize it other than to say it suggested the Hamas presence was significant, including involving operational activity. The United States has told Israel that it should share more information publicly about this intelligence.
What kind of “operational activity”? A CNN reporter added another detail:
The Gaza building w/ AP & Al Jazeera offices destroyed by Israel over the weekend contained the “electronic department of the military wing of Hamas,” a sr Israel Defense Forces officer told journalists today. The US said intel was shared w them, hasn’t commented on the details.
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) May 19, 2021
An Israeli reporter added a tiny bit more:
This is also the reason why Israel passed the information to the Pentagon through the Ministry of Defense, and not through the diplomatic channels. The info passed said the Hamas operated in 3 floors, conducting tech operations >
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) May 19, 2021
What are “tech operations”? Hacking? Cyberattacks? And what sort of tech infrastructure did Hamas have in the building such that destroying it would disrupt those “tech operations”? Remember that the IDF gave residents an hour’s notice to pack up their things and clear out before bringing the tower down. That necessarily meant giving Hamas time to do the same.
Although if they were operating on three floors, the implies something more substantial than cubicles with laptops — and something that the news outlets based in the building should have noticed, one might think. “If it’s true that AP was so unaware — and the evidence suggests it’s unlikely — how can anyone trust its reporting in the region?” the New York Post asked yesterday. Good question. What’s the answer?
Biden is under heavy pressure from leftists in the House to demand a ceasefire, and not just in the usual “it’d be nice if the two sides would stop fighting” way. Progressives view this as a moment to reorient the party towards a more pro-Palestinian posture. After stonewalling for days Biden now seems to be bending, with the White House announcing this morning that he told Netanyahu that he expects a “significant de-escalation” immediately:
New Biden-Netanyahu call, with a very clear tone shift in the White House readout. We reported the shift had happened privately in Monday’s call. Now emerges in public readouts: pic.twitter.com/wEAljPBr92
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) May 19, 2021
The problem is that the enemy gets a vote too. News broke within the past few hours that rockets were fired at Israel this morning from Lebanon, escalating and expanding the conflict.
Maybe that’s why the IDF is disinclined to share its intelligence on the Gaza tower with the public. The battle has already moved on. There’s less agitation against Israel this week about rendering the AP and Al Jazeera homeless in Gaza than I expected. If there’s any risk that the intel will reveal sources and methods, why share it at this point? What’s to be gained?
I’ll leave you with this, from Sky News Israel. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, obviously, but it does neatly capture how the two parties to the conflict seem to view casualties on their own side.
Shocking phone call of IDF calling to warn a building owner where children are present. A heartbreaking response.
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר (@emilykschrader) May 19, 2021