PM speaks with Netanyahu to demand investigation into Australian’s death

Source: X/Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has spoken to his Israeli counterpart to demand a thorough investigation into the death of Australian woman Zomi Frankcom in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said an Israeli airstrike had mistakenly killed seven people working for the aid charity World Central Kitchen in Gaza, and Australia, the US and other allies called for explanations amid widespread condemnation.

Israel’s military voiced “sincere sorrow” over the incident, which ratcheted up international pressure for steps to ease the disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza nearly six months into Israel’s siege and invasion of the Palestinian enclave.

Albanese said he spoke to Netanyahu in a phone call early on Wednesday, and “emphasised the importance of full accountability and transparency.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has committed to full transparency about how this tragedy could possibly have occurred,” he said.

“There is a need for a thorough investigation into what happened here and Prime Minister Netanyahu committed to that.”

Frankcom has been remembered as a selfless and outstanding person.

“I made clear again that it is Australia’s view that humanitarian assistance must reach people in Gaza unimpeded and in large quantities,” Albanese said.

The strike on the WCK convoy killed citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

WCK said they were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the charity’s logo, and another vehicle.

“Unfortunately in the past day there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

“This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”

The Israeli military (IDF) pledged an investigation by “an independent, professional and expert body”.

Zomi Frankcom in Gaza last week

Source: World Central Kitchen

The foreign affairs department called in Israel’s ambassador in Australia Amir Maimon on Tuesday night.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she told her Israeli counterpart on that Australians were “outraged” by Frankcom’s death.

“I made clear that we believe the death of any aid worker is unacceptable, and frankly, outrageous, she told Nine’s Today on Wednesday.

“I made clear we expect a full, thorough transparent inquiry and explanation and we expect full accountability.”

Wong said the government would not “back away” from its strong advocacy for accountability. She said Albanese had spoken to Frankcom’s family, and she intended to do the same.

Britain also summoned Israel’s ambassador in London to express its “unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing” of the WCK workers, three of whom were British nationals, and called for an urgent explanation from Israel of how this had occurred.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, said that there was no evidence Israel deliberately targeted the aid workers but that it was outraged by their deaths and Israel had an obligation to ensure aid workers in Gaza were not harmed.

The White House said it expected a broad and impartial investigation to be carried out with appropriate accountability.

“These people are heroes, they run into the fire, not away from it,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the seven aid workers, speaking in Paris.

“We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk.”

Israel has long denied accusations that it is hindering the distribution of urgently needed food aid in Gaza, which it has besieged in a war since October, saying the problem is caused by international aid groups’ inability to get it to those in need.

Despite co-ordinating movements with the Israeli military, the convoy was hit as it was leaving its Deir al-Balah warehouse after unloading more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by sea, WCK said.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” Erin Gore, chief executive of World Central Kitchen, said.

“This is unforgivable.”

At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 triggered Israel’s assault on the Hamas-ruled enclave, and the deaths of the WCK staffers were “the inevitable result of the way this war is currently being conducted”, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Israel has been under rising international pressure to alleviate the severe hunger in Gaza, which has been devastated by months of fighting the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Much of the densely populated territory has been laid waste and most of its 2.3 million population displaced.

-with AAP

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