Associated Press: Palestinian 'activists' launched incendiary balloon attack from Gaza on Israel

'Any reasonable person would conclude these are terrorists,' said Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz

The Associated Press (AP) was the target of sharp criticism Tuesday over its article that referred to individuals who launched an incendiary balloon attack on Israel from Gaza as "activists." 

The article highlighted the closure of the Egyptian border with Gaza amid increasing tensions with the terrorist group Hamas.

"Activists in the Gaza Strip on Monday launched incendiary balloons into southern Israel, setting off at least three fires across the border, Israel’s national fire service said," the AP wrote.

"No one immediately claimed responsibility for the balloon launches, but in a statement on Sunday, Hamas and other militant groups pledged ‘to continue our popular activities without hesitation or retreat,'" it added. It also referred to a "Palestinian activist [who shot an Israeli sniper in the head at point-blank range." Another AP story this week referred to the ballon launchers as "Hamas-backed Palestinian activists."

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Critics blasted the "political spin" from the AP, including Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz, who said that the most obvious conclusion from the attack, which started fires in Israel near the border, was terrorism.

"Israel continues be under a constant barrage of attacks. Some may want to call themselves activists, but their intention is terror. Any reasonable person would conclude these are terrorists. Perhaps they think they can put a political spin to it, but sending fire bombs across the border is terrorism," Chaffetz said.

Political commentator Noah Pollak, who previously ran the Emergency Committee for Israel, recalled the AP's reported sharing of an office building with Hamas in Gaza and said the problem started with AP CEO Gary Pruitt. The AP claimed it was unanware of Hamas' presence in the building, which Israel destroyed in an air strike earlier this year.

"The true activists here aren't Hamas terrorists engaged in arson and murder -- it is the AP allowing its 'journalists' to employ Orwellianisms to mislead readers about attacks on Israel," he told Fox News. "This problem starts at the top with the CEO of the AP, Gary Pruitt, whose response to the AP sharing an office building with Hamas in Gaza was to deny reality and attack Israel for destroying the building. Why are AP reporters in Gaza acting as propagandists for Hamas? Because Gary Pruitt lets them."

Other critics ripped the AP's use of the term "activists," including the press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, who had a tense exchange with the AP last week over a story about her boss.

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"The AP is more upset about Tweets debunking their hit piece on [DeSantis] than they are about terrorists … I mean ‘activists,’" she wrote.

This instance isn't the first time the AP has used the term "activists" to describe those associated with Hamas. In July, the outlet published another article referring to the perpetrators of a separate incendiary balloon attack as "Pro-Hamas activists."

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"The story made clear that Hamas militants were behind these types of attacks, while also accurately conveying the actions of those sending up the balloons," the Associated Press told Fox News. "At the same time, going forward we will weigh whether they are best called Hamas fighters, militants or activists."

This article was updated with a comment from the Associated Press.