Blinken denies Israel's 'smoking gun': Secretary of State says 'he's seen NO evidence' Hamas was operating in Gaza media building destroyed in airstrike - despite Israeli claims Biden was 'satisfied' with Netanyahu's evidence

 Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he hasn't seen any evidence that Hamas was operating inside a Gaza media building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike.

An Israeli diplomat said on Sunday that the government provided 'smoking gun' evidence to President Joe Biden about the high-rise its forces obliterated.

But Blinken appeared to go against the claims, said the U.S. is seeking additional evidence and has demanded a full explanation from the Israelis as to why they targeted the building.  


'Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it,' Blinken said Monday. 

Blinken would not discuss specific intelligence, saying he 'will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment that information.'

His comments came as it was announced that the US approved a $735million weapons deal to send precision-guided missiles to Israel earlier this month, prompting outrage from Democrats.

The approval came about a week before Hamas unleashed rocket attacks on Israeli territory, following a series of standoffs and escalations over local issues.  

A Democratic lawmaker on the House Foreign Affairs Committee referenced the attack on the building housing the AP, and told The Washington Post: 'Allowing this proposed sale of smart bombs to go through without putting pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire will only enable further carnage.' 

28 Democratic lawmakers, led by Jewish Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, have also called for an immediate ceasefire to 'prevent further loss of life and further escalation of violence', according to a letter first seen by CNN.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, following their meeting at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eigtveds Pakhus, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, May 17, 2021. 'I have not seen any information provided,' when asked about Israeli evidence that Hamas was operating inside a building its Air Force destroyed that also housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, following their meeting at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eigtveds Pakhus, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, May 17, 2021. 'I have not seen any information provided,' when asked about Israeli evidence that Hamas was operating inside a building its Air Force destroyed that also housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices


'I have not seen any information provided,' he said at a press conference with the Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod. 

Blinken sought to avoid speaking about any information the Israelis provided. 'I wouldn't want to weigh in on intelligence matters in this forum, it's not my place,' he said.

But he also shared the 'broader point' that he called 'really critical': Israel has a special responsibility to protect civilians in the course of its self-defense. That that most certainly includes journalists.,' he said. 

When pressed on if he had seen and received information provided by Israel, Blinken said: 'I have not seen any information provided, and again to the extent that it is based on intelligence that would be shared with other colleagues and I'll leave that to them to discuss.' 

His comment came after officials in Israel were providing their own characterizations of the information. 

Journalists operating in the building say Israeli Defense Forces provided a warning before a rocket took out the building. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called it a 'perfectly legitimate target.'

Israeli government officials say Natanyahu shared a 'smoking gun' with Biden when the two men spoke by telephone on Saturday.  

A source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said: 'We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building'. He also said Biden 'found the explanation satisfactory', without providing details of the evidence, the Jerusalem Post reported. 

He also said the intelligence had not been shared more widely because the U.S. were the only country to request more information on the strike on the Al-Jalaa building.

The Israeli Air Force dropped three bombs on the building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust, on Saturday afternoon after giving journalists a one hour warning to evacuate the premises.

The ongoing violence poses a continued political challenge for the Biden administration, which was already facing blowback from critics of Israel from Democrats in Congress. 

A senior Palestinian militant commander has been killed in an Israeli airstrike, the country's air force has claimed, following a night of heavy bombardment that saw hundreds of bombs dropped on Gaza.

Hussam Abu Harbid, commander of the Northern Division of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was killed in a strike on Monday, according to the Israeli air force. 

Harbid was behind rocket attacks against Israel including several launched on the first day of the most-recent clashes, the Israeli air force said, and had been a commander within PIJ for at least 15 years.

News of Harbid's death - which has not been confirmed by PIJ - was followed by a flurry of rocket fire from inside Gaza at cities in southern Israel, which left at least eight people wounded.

The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Saturday, May 15, 2021. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military warned people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments

The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Saturday, May 15, 2021. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military warned people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments

A combination picture shows a tower building housing AP, Al Jazeera offices as it collapses after Israeli missile strikes in Gaza city, May 15, 2021

A combination picture shows a tower building housing AP, Al Jazeera offices as it collapses after Israeli missile strikes in Gaza city, May 15, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod hold a joint news conference in Denmark

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod hold a joint news conference in Denmark

A U.S. soldier walks in front of Patriot anti-missile systems deployed in a joint U.S. and Israeli military outpost in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv March 5, 2003. The U.S. this month approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, the Washington Post reported Monday

A U.S. soldier walks in front of Patriot anti-missile systems deployed in a joint U.S. and Israeli military outpost in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv March 5, 2003. The U.S. this month approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, the Washington Post reported Monday

A missile scored a direct hit on a residential building in Ashdod, the Magen David Adom emergency service said, with at least three people wounded by shrapnel in that attack, and amid fears more could be trapped in rubble. Five other people suffered panic attacks.

The death toll from a week of fighting now stands at 211, with 201 dead on the Palestinian side according to Gaza's health authority, including 58 children and 34 women.

Hussam Abu Harbid has been killed by an Israeli air strike, the country's military has said, describing him as a senior commander in Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Hussam Abu Harbid has been killed by an Israeli air strike, the country's military has said, describing him as a senior commander in Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Ten deaths have been confirmed in Israel, including one child. More than 1,200 Palestinians have been injured so far, along with 302 Israelis.

Monday morning's strikes came after an overnight bombardment described by witnesses as the heaviest of the conflict so far, with 54 Israeli jets dropping bombs on 35 targets in and around Gaza City in just 20 minutes.

The IDF said the strikes targeted around nine miles of Hamas tunnels, referred to by the military as 'the Metro', along with the homes of senior Hamas commanders that were also used as weapons stores.  

The night of strikes began when Hamas rockets were fired at the cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, with one slamming into a synagogue hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported. 

Israeli aircraft then launched their own raids, with the IDF saying that nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders were hit. Some of the homes were used for weapons storage, it said.

Later in the morning, Palestinian media reported that Israel had struck a factory in northern Gaza. Video on social media showed a column of thick black smoke rising into the air.

Gaza mayor Yahya Sarraj said the strikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure, and that he expected 'the situation to get much worse' if the bombardment continued.

It came amid reports that just one turbine at the power station which supplies much of Gaza's electricity is now working, threatening mass blackouts including at hospitals and interruption to water supplies. 

The U.N. has warned that the territory's sole power station is at risk of running out of fuel, and Sarraj said Gaza was also low on spare parts. 

Gaza already experiences daily power outages for between eight and 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable. Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the the territory's electricity distribution company, said it has fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or a three days. 

 

Abu Harbid - whose death has yet to be confirmed by PIJ - came amid continuing attacks by Israel in Gaza today. Pictured: Palestinian rescue workers carry the remains of a man found next to a beachside cafe after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike

Abu Harbid - whose death has yet to be confirmed by PIJ - came amid continuing attacks by Israel in Gaza today. Pictured: Palestinian rescue workers carry the remains of a man found next to a beachside cafe after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike

A Palestinian man stands next to a car that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, near the beach in Gaza City, with three people thought to have died in the strike

A Palestinian man stands next to a car that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, near the beach in Gaza City, with three people thought to have died in the strike

Palestinians gather around a car targeted by an Israeli missile in Gaza City as strikes continued on Monday

Palestinians gather around a car targeted by an Israeli missile in Gaza City as strikes continued on Monday

Reports of Harbid's death were followed by a flurry of rocket fire from Gaza at Israel, with at least one rocket hitting a residential building in Ashdod and causing eight injuries

Reports of Harbid's death were followed by a flurry of rocket fire from Gaza at Israel, with at least one rocket hitting a residential building in Ashdod and causing eight injuries

Rockets fired towards Israel are intercepted in the skies above the Gaza Strip on Monday

Rockets fired towards Israel are intercepted in the skies above the Gaza Strip on Monday

A man inspects a three storey demolished building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City overnight

A man inspects a three storey demolished building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City overnight

Palestinians inspect damaged building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

Palestinians inspect damaged building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

Palestinians inspect at debris of a building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

Palestinians inspect at debris of a building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

Palestinian Al Deyri family's children are seen at street after their home demolished by Israeli army's airstrikes in Gaza City

Palestinian Al Deyri family's children are seen at street after their home demolished by Israeli army's airstrikes in Gaza City

Children and Palestinian men are seen near debris of a building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

Children and Palestinian men are seen near debris of a building after airstrikes by Israeli army hit buildings in Gaza City

A Palestinian man walks through the ruins in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City

A Palestinian man walks through the ruins in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City

A Palestinian man passes the site of Israeli strikes in Gaza City on Monday after a night of heavy bombardment

A Palestinian man passes the site of Israeli strikes in Gaza City on Monday after a night of heavy bombardment

Palestinian firefighters douse a huge fire at the Foamco mattress factory following an Israeli airstrike, east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip

Palestinian firefighters douse a huge fire at the Foamco mattress factory following an Israeli airstrike, east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip

Palestinian firefighters attempt to put out a blaze at a sponge factory in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday

Palestinian firefighters attempt to put out a blaze at a sponge factory in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday

Flames rip through a warehouse belonging to a sponge factory in the northern Gaza Strip early on Monday

Flames rip through a warehouse belonging to a sponge factory in the northern Gaza Strip early on Monday

Flames rise from the rubble of destroyed factories in the Gaza Strip on Monday morning

Flames rise from the rubble of destroyed factories in the Gaza Strip on Monday morning


Airstrikes have damaged supply lines and the company's staff cannot reach areas that were hit because of continued Israeli shelling, he added. 

West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed 'horror and fear' at the intensity of the onslaught.

'There have never been strikes of this magnitude,' he said. 

Gazan Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 'should realise we're civilians, not fighters', adding 'I felt like I was dying'. 

The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza - including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry - were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began. 

Israel's army said about 3,100 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza - the highest rate ever recorded - but added its Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.

Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel's 'campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force' and would 'take time' to finish.

The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and armed group Islamic Jihad, weapons factories and storage sites.

Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas's political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.

On Saturday, Israel gave journalists from Al Jazeera and AP news agency an hour to evacuate their offices before launching air strikes, turning their tower block into piles of smoking rubble.

Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian 'terrorist' intelligence office.

'It is a perfectly legitimate target,' he said. 

In the Israeli air assault early Sunday, families were buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted rebar. A yellow canary lay crushed on the ground. 

Shards of glass and debris covered streets blocks away from the major downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1 a.m.

The hostilities have repeatedly escalated over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians since Israel and Hamas' devastating 2014 war.

'I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work,' said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza. 'Not even in the 2014 war.'

Rescuers furiously dug through the rubble using excavators and bulldozers amid clouds of heavy dust. One shouted, 'Can you hear me?' into a hole. Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out. 

The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 wounded.

Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes sent her fleeing into the street. 

She accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack.

'We are tired,' she said, 'We need a truce. We can´t bear it anymore.'

The Israeli army spokesperson´s office said the strike targeted Hamas 'underground military infrastructure.'

As a result of the strike, 'the underground facility collapsed, causing the civilian houses' foundations above them to collapse as well, leading to unintended casualties,' it said. 

Blinken denies Israel's 'smoking gun': Secretary of State says 'he's seen NO evidence' Hamas was operating in Gaza media building destroyed in airstrike - despite Israeli claims Biden was 'satisfied' with Netanyahu's evidence Blinken denies Israel's 'smoking gun': Secretary of State says 'he's seen NO evidence' Hamas was operating in Gaza media building destroyed in airstrike - despite Israeli claims Biden was 'satisfied' with Netanyahu's evidence Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 10:39 Rating: 5

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