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Tuesday, 22 July 2014 | MYT 9:15 PM

Al Jazeera reporters evacuate Gaza offices after shots fired

GAZA (Reuters) - Reporters from the Qatari television channel Al Jazeera evacuated their newsroom in Gaza City on Tuesday, saying an Israeli soldier had fired two shots into the building.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was unaware of any such action, adding that there was a lot of gunfire in Gaza from all sides.

The incident happened the day after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Al Jazeera of spreading propaganda for Gaza's Hamas Islamists and said the government was looking into shutting down its Israeli operations.

Al Jazeera staffers said a shot rang out in their newsroom in the morning, followed by a second one a short while later. No one was hit, but the office was evacuated.

"Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building," Al Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker said on the network's website.

Al Jazeera works in the same tower block as U.S. media organisation Associated Press, whose journalists also left the building, she said, along with other residents.

The 11-storey tower block that houses the two news organisations is in the centre of Gaza City and has a view toward the border with Israel.

Israel and Gaza militants have been locked in two weeks of cross-border fighting that has escalated into an Israeli tank and infantry push into the densely populated coastal strip.

Al Jazeera's coverage of the region has regularly grated on Israeli officials, who view it as a mouthpiece for Qatar, one of Hamas's few remaining allies in the Arab world.

"The Al Jazeera network, which, of course, is also financed by Qatar, is the main pillar of Hamas's propaganda machine," Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

"The United States would not permit an Al Qaeda channel to broadcast from New York. So we will take action to prevent Al Jazeera from broadcasting from Israel," he said.

Al Jazeera, which broadcasts in Arabic and English, accused Lieberman of incitement.

"The foreign minister’s comments were a direct threat against us and appear to have been taken as a green light for the targeting of our journalists in Gaza," a spokesman for the channel said in Qatar.

"We hold the Israeli authorities fully responsible. They have put the lives of journalists in danger," he said, denying Israeli accusations of bias.

(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr in Qatar; Editing by Crispian Balmer/Jeremy Gaunt)


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