US senator Tom Cotton drew criticism for suggesting the Associated Press (AP) was acting in collusion with Hamas, after an Israeli strike on a building that housed news organisations’ offices in Gaza.
After the 12-story building was blown-up by Israel on Saturday, the country’s intelligence agencies alleged that the AP building was actually a base for Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group.
It follows the UN issuing a warning of “full-scale war” between Israel and Hamas, after days of fighting in and around Gaza.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Mr Cotton asked: "Why is the AP sharing a building with Hamas? Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbours were."
"Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a US-designated terrorist organisation?” the senator continued, accusing the AP of refusing to report on Hamas for years.
Mr Cotton also attacked "whiny reporters" from AP and Al-Jazeera, also based in the offices before Saturday, following international condemnation of Israel for the airstrike.
Footage of the building falling to bits on Saturday was shared widely on social media, with Mostefa Soug, the acting director general of Al-Jazeera, accusing Israel of a "war crime”.
AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt added that "the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today", and called for further evidence from Israel.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggests the Associated Press colluded with Hamas:
“Did they allow themselves to be used as human shields … ?” pic.twitter.com/nUu8saYzdA
— The Recount (@therecount) May 17, 2021
"We have called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence,” wrote Mr Pruitt in a statement. “AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years.”
“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."
Anthony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said on Monday there was not any evidence of Israeli intelligence that he had seen, as reported by AP and Axios.
On Twitter, critics of Mr Cotton offered criticism of the allegations, with a user, D Lowther writing: “This is clinically insane ranting, even as measured by Tom Cotton's usual standards”.
“I think Tom Cotton has some uncomfortable questions to answer, including why he is making such an monumental ass of himself,” another Twitter user, Bruce Coffman added. “Blinken has said that he has seen no evidence that there was any Hamas presence in that building. They bombed it to shut down press coverage of their dirt.”
The Independent has reached out to AP for comment on Mr Cotton’s remarks.