Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has doubled down on his call for all innocent lives to be protected as Israel continues its offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
- The government is working with international counterparts to provide humanitarian access to Gaza, Albanese said.
- Israel continues to press into Gaza after Hamas launched an attack on 7 October, killing over 1,400 people.
- Gazan authorities say over 8,000 Palestinians have since been killed by Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes.
Australia has again urged the protection of all civilians across Israel and Gaza.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government is working with international counterparts to provide humanitarian access to Gaza and establish a safe corridor at the Rafah crossing into Egypt to allow citizens to get to safety.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong has held phone calls with International Committee of the Red Cross president Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister Bou Habib and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Israel continues to press into Gaza after Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation by the Australian government, launched an attack against civilians on 7 October, killing at least 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages.
“It is important that we recognise that the attacks from Hamas on Israel are worthy of absolute condemnation in an unequivocal way,” Albanese told reporters in Bundaberg on Tuesday.
“It’s also important to recognise that Israel has a right to defend itself, but how it does that matters.
“We need to make sure, as well, that every civilian life is valued, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian — every innocent loss of life is a tragedy.”
Gazan authorities say over 8,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes since 7 October.
Six former PMs, sans Paul Keating, issue statement
John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison issued a joint statement on Monday calling for Australians to remain united in the face of conflict abroad.
The six former prime ministers called for an end to religious hatred amid rising tensions over Israel’s response against Hamas in Gaza.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry called the letter “a powerful rejection of the incitement to hatred and violence directed at Jews in Australia at anti-Israel rallies”.
“The fact that our former prime ministers put aside ideological and political differences to stand united in rejecting terrorism and anti-Semitism is an example that all Australians should follow,” co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said.
“This letter is a sober reminder of how fragile our multiculturalism is and how urgently anti-Semitism must be confronted.”
Former prime minister Paul Keating’s name wasn’t on the letter and Albanese said questions on that decision were a matter for Keating.
Keating previously issued a statement saying he had been contacted by former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia Mark Leibler about the letter, but he declined to be involved.
The joint letter said the former prime ministers stood with all Jewish Australians and the Australian Palestinian community for the “suffering” being experienced.
It also called for humanitarian access to Gaza and reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution.
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network slams statement
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) has accused the six former leaders of allowing themselves to be used as a “tool” to “minimise Israel’s gross violations of international law for the past 75 years”.
“Rather than fostering community cohesion which the statement purports to do, it has further exacerbated community division whilst further alienating Palestinian Australians,” APAN said in a statement.
“The statement’s reference to ‘Australian values of love and respect’ rings hollow,” APAN president Nasser Mashni said, adding that the letter “ignored the anguish that many thousands of Palestinian Australians are currently feeling.”
“How the former prime ministers could have the audacity to quote religious texts about peace while Israel is carpet bombing two million people in Gaza is gut-wrenching hypocrisy,” he said.
The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) also condemned the letter, highlighting Israel’s violence as they thanked Keating for opting out it.
“The group’s statement fails to condemn Israel for its 131 violations of UN resolutions since 1967, many of which Australia voted in support of,” it said on Thursday.
In addition, the LMA criticised Australia’s choice to abstain from a UN vote demanding an aid truce between Israel and Hamas.
Government ministers, Opposition spokespeople respond
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said unity was needed despite the ongoing conflict in the region and that the joint letter reflected the views of the federal government.
“The last thing this country needs is division based on the terrible scenes we’re seeing in Palestine and Israel. Hamas wins if this country becomes divided,” he told Nine’s Today program.
While Australia recognised that “the psychotic nature of the gangster regime of Hamas is just despicable and needs to be rooted out”, it had to be done so in a way that minimises the suffering of civilians on both sides, he said.
Independent Wentworth MP Allegra Spender agreed that the former prime ministers had “got it right” and urged Australians not be “turned against each other”.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said the letter was a powerful statement and clear-cut reminder of Hamas being a terrorist organisation that would pose a continued threat to Israel if not brought under control.
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group, gaining power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006.
Hamas’ stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.
Some countries list only its military wing as a terrorist group.
The UN has not condemned Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation, due to insufficient support from member states to do so during a 2018 vote.