Blinken to Israel: Show me the evidence Hamas operated out of media building

State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha

Did Israel brief the US on its intelligence before targeting the media building in Gaza that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera? Yesterday, the Biden administration’s quiet non-reaction led Allahpundit to believe they had seen the evidence. This morning, however, Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly denied having seen any intelligence on the building, and demanded a briefing from Israel:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has not seen any Israeli evidence of Hamas operating in Gaza office building hit by airstrike over the weekend. Blinken says he has asked Israel for justification for the strike.

Blinken spoke at a news conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, as pressure is increasing on the Biden administration to ask for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel destroyed a building housing The Associated Press and other military, and claimed that Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office.

That contradicts a Jerusalem Post report over the weekend. It also defies common sense, although there may not be a contradiction here. As Allahpundit mentioned, it’s highly unlikely that the IDF would have chosen to hit that building housing global media outlets unless they knew it was a major Hamas asset. There would have been zero upside otherwise, not even in the accusation that the IDF just wanted to stop reporting on the war from the Gaza side. It wouldn’t accomplish that even if the IDF wanted it stopped, and it would only inflame world opinion — even if Hamas’ use had turned it into a legit military target. (As we are already seeing.)

Knowing that the Associated Press had its offices in the building, it would have been unthinkable to not brief the US on the targeting. There wasn’t a need for secrecy; they gave the building occupants a one-hour head start to clear the building. The Israelis would have made sure that the White House knew about the intel before the attack, if for no other reason than to embarrass their most important ally. And if they hadn’t briefed the US, does anyone believe that Joe Biden and his team would have remained quiet for this long?

If that’s the case, though, why is Blinken demanding a briefing? Perhaps Blinken wasn’t read into any intel sharing that took place; it might have been done between the Mossad and the CIA, for instance, with the White House briefed immediately. Or perhaps it came from Benjamin Netanyahu to Biden directly. Blinken may not have been in the loop, although if that’s the case, he certainly appears to want to be in the loop now.

Blinken is also facing sharp calls to get to the bottom of the attack, and not just from the media outlets displaced by it:

The Associated Press’ top editor is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media, saying the public deserves to know the facts.

Separately, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s bombing of a building housing the media organizations as a possible war crime.

This report comes from the AP, and it includes this interesting nugget:

The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development. Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was compiling evidence for the U.S. but declined to commit to providing it within the next two days.

“We’re in the middle of fighting,” Conricus said Sunday. “That’s in process and I’m sure in due time that information will be presented.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would share any evidence of Hamas’ presence in the targeted building through intelligence channels. But neither the White House nor the State Department would say if any American official had seen it.

That’s an interesting non-denial. It might be that everyone already knew that Hamas had a command center in the building (read Allahpundit’s post yesterday for more details on that), and that the Israelis just flagged the existing intel along with the targeting information. There may not have been a need for a formal briefing in that case. If so, then the Israelis would put together an after-action report with a more comprehensive case including the intel everyone already had. Blinken might be signaling to Netanyahu to accelerate that process, especially with the ICC taking an interest in it.

The alternative to all this is that the IDF just decided to indiscriminately take down buildings in Gaza, which is clearly not the case. If that was what the IDF intended to do, they wouldn’t have left the surrounding buildings intact and they’d be dropping much heavier ordnance in Gaza. They wanted to take out this building in particular with no loss of life and carefully set up the mission to accomplish it. Clearly they believe that doing so degraded Hamas’ ability to conduct terror operations.