Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said every Palestinian and Israeli life matters while expressing concern over rising civilian deaths in Gaza as the federal government toughens its language urging Israel to respect international law.
- PM says Israel, in effort to destroy Hamas, must uphold rules of war
- Foreign Minister says international community will not tolerate more innocent deaths
- Government continues to work to help dozens of Australians leave Gaza
Foreign Minister Penny Wong added on Thursday that “the international community will not accept the deaths of civilians”, saying Israel must respect the rules of war.
The government maintains that Israel has the “right to defend itself”, but Albanese stressed that it also has a responsibility to ensure that innocent civilians do not pay the price for the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7.
“The civilian toll is rightly causing enormous concern around the world,” he told a conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
“Every Palestinian life matters, just as every Israeli life matters.
“Every effort must be made to ensure that innocent civilians are protected to the greatest extent possible.
“It is very difficult because of the way Hamas operates, using civilian infrastructure mixed with what is effectively military infrastructure… but every effort must be made.”
The number of people killed in Gaza since Israel began its bombing campaign 26 days ago has surpassed 8,700, including more than 3,600 children killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Israel said Hamas had killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, while taking more than 200 people hostage last month.
Gaza officials say at least 195 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli attacks on the Jabalia refugee camp this week, with 120 missing under the rubble and around 100 others injured.
Israel said both strikes killed Hamas military leaders, while claiming “terrorist infrastructure” had been built beneath civilian buildings in the area.
Mr Albanese said images from the refugee camp had “rightly” caused “huge concern”, while revealing he had met Australians this week whose family members had been killed in the besieged territory .
“I met yesterday afternoon with people who have lost family members in Gaza,” he said.
“They are absolutely right to be traumatized and want their government to speak up for them, just as the government has spoken up for the loss of Israeli lives and for the families concerned about the hostages and the aftermath of Hamas atrocities.”
The federal government’s strong support for Israel has angered some members of Australia’s Arab and Muslim communities, who argue that Australia, along with other Western allies, provided encouragement and moral support for Israel’s crimes. alleged war.
Senator Wong urged Israel to listen to calls from friendly nations and adhere to international law, arguing that even though Hamas is a “cowardly terrorist group”, this has not diminished Israel’s obligation to observe international law and the rules of war.
“Even in war, there are rules,” she says.
“The international community will not accept that civilians continue to die.
“So when Israel’s friends urge Israel to exercise restraint, when Israel’s friends urge Israel to protect civilian lives, it is essential that Israel listens.
Senator Wong said Israel’s security would be “gravely threatened” if the conflict were to spread across the region, and reiterated Australia’s call for a humanitarian pause in hostilities to allow entry essential supplies, including food, water, medicine and fuel, to Gaza.
“The people of Gaza cannot wait,” she said.
She also said the escalation of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank “must stop.”
Australians who left Gaza in “good health”
Overnight, 20 Australian citizens, one permanent resident and two family members were able to cross the Rafah border into Egypt after enduring more than three weeks of intense bombardment.
Senator Wong said she was “relieved and grateful” that the first cohort was able to travel to Egypt where they are supported by consular staff in Cairo, while travel arrangements are made for them to return to Australia free of charge.
She said Australia’s ambassador to Egypt, Axel Wabenhorst, had met those who had made the seven-hour journey from Gaza.
“He said people seemed healthy and were relieved, but we are ensuring that anyone who needs medical attention receives it,” Senator Wong said.
Senator Wong thanked her department’s staff and counterparts in Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the United States who helped negotiate the deal to get foreign citizens out, but said the work was not enough. was not over with dozens of Australians and their family members still stuck.
“This is very good progress and we are very grateful and relieved that this has happened, but there is still much more to do,” she said.
“There are still Australians in Gaza… I know how distressing this situation is for them and their next of kin, rest assured we will continue to press for you all to cross the border out of Gaza.”