WASHINGTON - Sen. Robert Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and perhaps the most ardent Democratic supporter of Israel in the Senate, issued rare criticism of Israel after airstrikes destroyed a building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
"I am deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets," Menendez said.
The 12-story al-Jalaa building also contains other offices and apartments, and was evacuated after advance warning of the strike was given. The Israeli military said the building "contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terror organization" and that it had provided advance warning.
Menendez implored Israel to continue taking "the conscientious practice of giving advance warning of its attacks to reduce the harm to the innocent." The New Jersey senator added that he believes there must be a "full accounting of actions that have led to civilian deaths and destruction of media outlets."
Menendez defended Israel's right to self-defense and condemned Hamas rocket fire, but said that "no matter how dangerous and real that threat may be, I have always believed the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship flourishes when it is based on the shared values of democracy, freedom, pluralism, and respect for human rights and the rule of law."
Menendez has long been a favorite of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington. He has offered consistent, vocal support for Israel throughout his 15 years in the Senate during all previous Israeli military operations in Gaza and was one of four Democrats to vote against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
According to Gaza's health ministry, 145 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes during the current military operation, including 41 children and 23 women, and 1,100 wounded.
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Reuters contributed to this article.