|Al Qassam Mosque with a conveniently placed child|
Only the minaret still stands after an Israeli airstrike reduced Gaza's Al-Qassam Mosque to a heap of concrete, iron rods and dust. Hours after the pre-dawn attack, rescue workers searched in the rubble, residents gathered — and plainclothes Hamas security agents mingled among them.
Also known as the Grand Mosque, it was one of 63 that Israel has destroyed in its monthlong war with Hamas, according to Palestinian officials. The reason, Israel says, is that Hamas is using mosques to stockpile weapons and rocket launchers, and to hide tunnels used to infiltrate into Israel and carry out attacks.
Gaza's Hamas rulers deny the accusation, saying Israel is waging a war against Islam. On the ground, many Gazans react the same, saying Israel is attacking their faith.
In its determination to go after what it says are militant arsenals, Israel is throwing aside any reluctance it had in the past to hit religious sites for fear of a diplomatic backlash. In Israel's week-long 2012 air campaign in Gaza, not a single mosque was hit. In the three-week 2008-2009 war with Hamas, Israel shelled 17 mosques and toppled 20 minarets, saying they were used as Hamas military antennas.
During recent visits by The Associated Press to a half-dozen Gaza mosques destroyed by Israeli strikes, residents categorically denied they were used by Hamas as hideouts for its fighters or as storage places for its hardware.
"None, absolutely none," or "I never saw members of the resistance anywhere here" were the most common responses to queries about whether the militants used them for military purposes.
And, indeed, most of the targeted mosques did double as social, education and health centers for residents, offering them medical care, classes to memorize the Quran and eradicate illiteracy, as well as sports events like soccer and table tennis tournaments.
...Standing atop the ruins of the Al-Qassam Mosque in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, Abu Bilal Darwish, the director of Islamic Endowments for central Gaza, echoed the same argument.
"This is aggression against Islam," he declared. "The occupiers realize that our mosques raise men and people who desire martyrdom for the sake of God."
Then, in paragraph 18, after the reader was exposed to information of how mosques are important to gaza's social fabric as well as perfunctorily mentioning that Israel says they are often used for terror, AP actually reports some facts - the only paragraph in the entire article that indicates the slightest deviation from the theme of Israel attacking mosques to hurt Gazans:
Of the mosques visited by the AP, Al-Qassam stood out as the most suspicious given that three senior Hamas officials perished in the pre-dawn airstrike Saturday and judging by the heavy security presence in the aftermath of the attack. Underlining the tension, an AP reporter was briefly detained by plainclothes Hamas security men after he took down the names of two religious books recovered from the rubble.The strike was at 3:30 AM, according to PCHR.
Not too many table tennis tournaments happening then.
But instead of a story about how it proved that Hamas indeed uses mosques for military means - why else would Hamas security be detaining the reporter - AP buried that fact and highlighted how Israel seems to be targeting them for no reason, or as an attack on Islam itself.