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Israeli airstrike targets tower offices of media outlets

Palestinians battle a blaze following an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
Palestinians battle a blaze following an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

May 15 (UPI) -- Israeli forces launched hundreds of strikes on Gaza on Saturday, including one that destroyed a building containing the offices of multiple news outlets.

Al Jazeera reported an airstrike demolished a high-rise building that housed its offices in the Gaza Strip, along with an Associated Press bureau and a number of other apartments and offices.

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The outlet said the AP office had been warned by the Israeli military of the impending strike about an hour ahead of time, allowing the occupants to evacuate to safety. Al Jazeera reported it wasn't clear if there were any casualties in the strike.

Israel Defense Forces accused Hamas of using "tall buildings" in the Gaza Strip for military purposes, including intelligence gathering and planning attacks. The military said it took steps to alert civilians of impending attacks.

"When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target," the IDF tweeted.

The airstrike was one of hundreds Saturday and more than 1,000 that have been launched toward Gaza over more than a week, when tensions between Palestinians and Israelis escalated over the forced eviction of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli military officials said militants in Gaza have fired some 2,300 rockets into Israel, some hitting civilian areas.

Gaza's Health Ministry said 139 Palestinians, including 39 children, have died, with some 1,000 injured. The Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported eight people have died in Israel.

Among the dead were 10 Palestinians killed overnight in an airstrike on a Gaza refugee camp, Palestinian officials said. The victims, including a 5-month-old boy who was pulled alive from the rubble, belonged to a single, extended family.

Israel Defense Forces said they "attacked a number of Hamas terror organization senior officials in an apartment used as a terror infrastructure in the area of the Al-Shati refugee camp."

Palestinians, meanwhile, prepared for annual Nakba Day demonstrations to mark the loss of Palestinian homes and displacement amid the creation of Israel. The Washington Post reported that demonstrations were planned for locations throughout Israel, the West Bank, and along the borders with Lebanon and Jordan.

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the tensions in the region, the White House said.

According to a readout of the call with Netanyahu, the president "reaffirmed his strong support for Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza" but also "noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children."

He encouraged Netanyahu to take "continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm."

A readout of Biden's call with Abbas said Biden "stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel" and that the two leaders "expressed their shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence."

Both readouts said Biden expressed "support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve" and for a two-state solution in the region.

According to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Benjamin "Benny" Gantz Saturday and "reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself," condemned attacks by Hamas and expressed "need to restore calm."

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