‘They drank coffee with Hamas men,’ comments IDF Chief of Staff on AP journalists in Gaza

Whether they knew it or not, AP staffers ‘drank coffee’ with Hamas operatives every morning, said IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi doubled down on his defense of the military’s strike on a building in Gaza during the recent conflict that contained the offices of several foreign media bureaus, Channel 12 reported.

“It fell rightly,” Kochavi said, according to the report. “I don’t have a single gram of regret. We had to hurt them.”

Midway through the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IAF destroyed the Al-Jalaa Tower in Gaza City, which housed the offices of The Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera, among other international offices. No one was hurt in the bombing of the 12-story building because the IDF gave the owner an hour to evacuate all inhabitants.

The IDF said after the strike that Hamas intelligence units operated from the building and condemned the terrorist organization for using the civilians in the building as human shields, a well documented practiced used by the Islamic terror group.

The IDF went into more detail in recent days, saying that on various floors Hamas members had developed significant electronic warfare capabilities designed to block the Israeli Air Force’s smart bombs by disrupting their GPS systems.

According to the report, Kochavi told a foreign source that AP journalists drank coffee every morning in the cafeteria on the entrance floor of the building with Hamas electronics experts, whether they knew it or not.

The international news outlet reacted by calling Kochavi a liar.

“This unsubstantiated allegation attributed to the Israeli military’s chief of staff is patently false. There was not even a cafeteria in the building. Such baseless claims jeopardize the safety of AP journalists,” AP said in a statement Saturday night.

Immediately after the bombing, a “shocked and horrified” AP CEO Gary Pruitt said that in the 15 years his bureau had been there, “we have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.” He demanded that Israel prove its case that the tower was a legitimate military target.

According to former AP reporter Matti Friedman, writing in The Atlantic in 2014 after Operation Protective Edge, the news bureau has long been under the thumb of Hamas.

“The AP staff in Gaza City,” he wrote, “would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby — and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas.”

Friedman continued, “Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it…. Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying.”

His conclusion was that, like many other news outlets working out of Gaza and Israel, AP acquiesces to a single storyline that whitewashes Hamas and demonizes Israel, regardless of the facts.

Friedman called the AP “an amplifier for the propaganda of one of the most intolerant and aggressive forces on earth.”

After being condemned by many countries, including the United States,for “endangering the press,” Israel provided the Biden administration with evidence of Hamas’ malign activities that emanated from the Gaza City tower, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly acknowledged.