- Title: Taking the call in Gaza before Israel takes out the building
- Date: 14th May 2021
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (MAY 11, 2021) (VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS) (ORIGINALLY SHOT IN PORTRAIT) BUILDING WATCHMAN, JAMAL NASMAN, SPEAKING ON THE PHONE, PACING UP AND DOWN A QUIET STREET IN GAZA IN VIDEO FOOTAGE FILMED BY AN ONLOOKER, SAYING (Arabic): "How much time do you want?" / LISTENS TO THE PERSON ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE / SAYING (Arabic): "Two or three hours? You said two or three hours and then no one should be there?" Pause. "So I'll go to the block and say no one should come?" NASMAN SPEAKING ON THE PHONE SAYING (Arabic): "Yes, sure. I wait for you to hit and then two more hits. Ok? I will wait for you to hit and then to hit the block." NASMAN SPEAKING ON THE PHONE SAYING (Arabic): "Everyone has exited the building, even those from the buildings around are standing on the road - there is no one." GAZA CITY, GAZA (MAY 11, 2021) (VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS) TOWER COLLAPSING IN GAZA CITY AFTER BEING HIT BY ISRAELI AIR STRIKE GAZA CITY, GAZA (MAY 13, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BUILDING WATCHMAN, JAMAL NASMAN, SEARCHING THROUGH RUBBLE OF COLLAPSED BUILDING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BUILDING WATCHMAN, JAMAL NASMAN, SAYING: "He called me. I thought it is someone from the tower. I said, 'I'm listening, what do you want, the generator is working. Are you not coming down?' He told me 'no, stay with me, we want to hit the tower.' I said 'how can you? I felt devastated. It's been 20 years that I am in the tower. It is the home of my life'." VARIOUS OF NASMAN SEARCHING THROUGH RUBBLE OF COLLAPSED BUILDING VARIOUS OF COLLAPSED BUILDING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BUILDING WATCHMAN, JAMAL NASMAN, SAYING: "I told me, 'let me get the residents out, just give me a chance.' He said 'I will give you two or three hours, as far as hitting the tower is concerned. First you have to listen. I will fire a warning rocket'. I asked 'a rocket from the drone'? He said 'yes'. He told me 'look up at the drone, we are seeing you and we know everything. I said OK." VARIOUS OF NASMAN SEARCHING THROUGH RUBBLE OF COLLAPSED BUILDING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BUILDING WATCHMAN, JAMAL NASMAN, SAYING: "Its a horrible sight. We spent four years building it, we are working on it, and then in the blink of an eye, all of it is gone?" GAZA CITY, GAZA (MAY 11, 2021) (REUTERS) (NIGHT SHOTS) AMBULANCE ARRIVING ON SITE OF COLLAPSED BUILDING VARIOUS OF PEOPLE INSPECTING RUBBLE ON SITE OF COLLAPSED BUILDING
- Embargoed: 28th May 2021 11:47
- Keywords: Gaza Israel Palestinians building violence watchman
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Middle East,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001ECXOAIV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The building watchman spoke on his mobile intently, pacing up and down a quiet street in Gaza. In video footage caught by an onlooker, Jamal Nasman showed no panic. Yet what he was hearing was deadly serious.
He later told Reuters an Israeli officer had been giving him advance warning that the 13-storey block he looked after would be the target of an air strike. Israel said Hamas militants used the building.
Amid the fiercest escalation in fighting between Israelis and Palestinians since 2014, this is what Nasman said in Tuesday's (May 11) call, offering an insight into how - at least sometimes - these neighbours and antagonists fight their wars.
"How much time do you want?" Nasman stops to listen. "Two or three hours? You said two or three hours and then no one should be there?" Pause. "So I'll go to the block and say no one should come?"
Another man leans in, eager to hear the caller. "Ok, got it. The drone will hit it once and then two more times." Pause. "Then you'll strike the block." The 67-year-old father of eight stops again. "Yes, right, no problem, just a moment ... everyone has exited the building, even those from the buildings around are standing on the road - there is no one."
The building that had residential apartments and Hamas offices, which Israel said included intelligence and military operations, was evacuated. First, small missiles struck the block in Gaza City's Rimal district, then boom, the building crumpled, footage showed. Hours after it was destroyed, Israel confirmed it had given a prior warning for civilians to leave.
This is not what always happens when Israel strikes what it deems a military target.
It says it makes every effort to preserve civilian life and accuses Hamas - the group that rules Gaza and which it deems a terrorist organisation - of using civilian areas to mount operations, such as planning attacks or firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
Gaza residents and other Palestinians say Israeli actions are more indiscriminate and aim to punish communities, not just militants. They say the vast majority of sites are hit without prior warning.
Yet the mobile exchange that preceded the strike on the Rimal block has become a more common feature of conflict since the 2014 escalation in Gaza: Israel's army makes a call, tells residents to evacuate, tap-tap-tap go the small missiles as a final warning - and then a big one brings the building down.
"We select warheads with the necessary lethality to hit those who need to be hit, and to reduce the impact on others," said an Israeli official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, saying careful intelligence preceded the strikes.
Footage by residents using smartphones, or recorded by Israel's military or the media, including Reuters, have shown some blasts that are contained to a single apartment or bring down a tower block while buildings next door stay standing.
In other cases, television footage has showed residential blocks and ordinary homes in Gaza shattered or destroyed by blasts, whether from direct hits or collateral damage, along with the dead and wounded being carried away.
"Even assuming, as the Israeli government claims, that a 13-storey residential tower in Gaza housed 'an office that is used by the political leadership' of Hamas, how is it proportionate for an Israeli air strike to destroy the entire building?" Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter.
Inside Israel, smaller rockets fired from Gaza have struck a range of civilian sites, although many are brought down first by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Palestinian medics say 87 people have been killed in the conflict that erupted on Monday. The Israeli military say seven have been killed in Israel.
(Arafat Barbakh, Mohammed Shana, Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh, Charlotte Bruneau)
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