Did Israel Destroy the Palestine National Library, the Azhar Library, and the ‘National Cultural Center’?

A cultural center was indeed destroyed in Gaza in August 2018, but a viral meme contains some inaccurate and misleading information about it.

  • Published 13 May 2019
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The Palestine National Library, the Azhar Library, and the "National Cultural Center" were destroyed by the Israel military.


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In May 2019, a set of images supposedly showing the Palestine “National Cultural Center” before and after it was destroyed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) went viral on social media, along with the claim that the IDF had also destroyed the National Palestine Library and the Azhar Library:

Many social media users presented these images as if they were recent, even comparing them to the fire that had broken out at Notre Dame Cathedral a few weeks prior:

The photographs used in this meme were real, but they were not taken recently, and the accompanying information was inaccurate or misleading.

National Cultural Center

These photographs show the Said al-Mishal Centre (not the “National Cultural Center”) in Gaza that was destroyed during an air strike on 9 August 2018 at the end of a “round of escalation” between the militant group Hamas and the IDF. Here’s how the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center summed up the events that eventually led to the Centre’s destruction:

On August 8 and 9, 2018, there was a fifth round of escalation between Hamas and the IDF. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations fired about 180 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory. The IDF responded with extensive attacks on Hamas’ infrastructure and assets. During and between the rounds of escalation (end of May to August 9, 2018), more than 610 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory. At the same time, contacts have been held to reach an agreement between the sides, mediated by Egypt and the UN envoy to the Middle East, so far without result.

The Israeli military maintained that the Said al-Mishal Centre was targeted because it was being “used by the Hamas terror organisation’s interior security forces for military purposes.” But Sameer al-Mishal, director general of the Centre, disputed this assertion, and the Palestinian Performing Arts Network released a statement claiming that the IDF was attacking the culture of Palestine: “The centre was a symbol of Palestinian cultural heritage and was purposefully targeted by the Israeli occupation because art and culture reinforce and strengthen Palestinian national and cultural identity.”

Palestine National Library

While we were able to find a number of reports concerning the destruction of the Said al-Mishal Centre in August 2018, as well as several images showing the aftermath of that attack (including the image featured on the right-hand side of this meme), our search for news reports about the destruction of the Palestine National Library or the Azhar Library were less successful.

The claim that Israel destroyed the “Palestine National Library” likely refers to a July 2018 bombing at a Hamas training facility in Gaza. YnetNews reported that the five-story, unfinished building, which sat on a network of tunnels, had originally been planned as a national library:

The Hamas training facility in Gaza that the IAF attacked on Saturday was meant to be the “Palestinian national library,” the IDF said.

The facility, located next to the Sheikh Zayed mosque, is an unfinished and abandoned five-story building in the al-Shati refugee camp, which was meant to be used for public or government services for the Palestinians, or at the very least for housing.

Instead, the IDF said it has been used for years as an urban warfare training facility for Hamas, and in recent months Hamas has also been using it to drill survival in the tunnels.

A tunnel was dug under the building, which connects to Hamas’s massive underground tunnel network in the strip.

While this building may have been intended at one time to house a “Palestinian National Library,” the edifice apparently never operated in this function.

Azhar Library

The claim that Israel destroyed the “Azhar Library” is even further removed from reality. This meme is likely referencing the library at Al-Azhar University — Gaza (AUG), but that library appears to still be standing. We were unable to find any reports of this library’s being destroyed, and the university’s official website makes no mention of the facility’s having been hit by a missile:

Al Azhar University – Gaza (AUG) central library is considered one of the major university libraries in the Gaza Strip. It was established in 2000, when a generous donation from the Indian government made this Library a reality. Therefore, the central library was named after a genuine Indian Politician Jawaharlal Nehru. The Library is designed in accordance with the unified international standards for building libraries; its building is located on the literary Building campus which is distant from the noise sources.

The library at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, also still stands.