Albanese wants answers, as Israeli PM admits ‘tragic’ charity worker deaths

Albanese on death of Zomi Frankcom
Source: ABC 7.30

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wants to speak directly with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu over the killing of an Australian aid worker in an air strike on Gaza, as family and friends remember Zomi Frankcom as selfless and courageous.

The move follows the nation’s top envoy apparently declining a meeting.

“The Israeli ambassador is not well today,” Albanese said on ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday night, after bureaucrats initially sought a meeting.

“There have been calls put in by the Foreign Minister to her counterpart and I have put in a request to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well, to speak with him directly.”

Some groups are calling for Australia to take stronger action in response to Frankcom’s death.

Zomi Frankcom with Mikolaj Rykowski, President of the Free Place Foundation. Photo: AAP 

Frankcom, who worked with international charity World Central Kitchen, was among seven aid workers killed while delivering food to Palestinians.

The vehicle in which Frankcom and her party of humanitarian workers was travelling. Photo: AAP

Israeli PM’s video admission

Netanyahu said the strike was unintended and tragic, and the Israeli military has pledged an independent inquiry.

The IDF confirmed the deadly strike on a WCK convoy that killed Frankcom, as well as citizens of the UK and Poland, a dual US-Canadian citizen and Palestinians.

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

The Israeli military has expressed “sincere sorrow” and promised an independent investigation into the incident, which has drawn widespread condemnation and ratcheted up pressure for steps to ease the disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“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.”

Britain 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. It has called for an urgent explanation from Israel.

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.”

Full accountability

Albanese earlier described the deaths as “completely unacceptable” and said his government wanted answers.

“Those doing humanitarian work and civilians need to be provided with protection,” he said.

“We want full accountability for this. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred.”

The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network said the deaths of humanitarian workers were not just a tragedy, but a crime.

The group urged Albanese to expel the ambassador and impose sanctions on Israel.

The Jewish Council of Australia, which has been outspoken against aspects of Israel’s war in Gaza, called for concrete action saying all that was missing was political will.

“It is clear that Israel will not listen to the international community until there are consequences for its actions,” executive director Max Kaiser said.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong echoed Albanese’s remarks, saying the death of any aid worker was “outrageous and unacceptable”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a post on X he sent his condolences to the countries and families of the aid workers killed in the Gaza Strip.

‘Kind, selfless’ person lost

Frankcom’s family members said they were reeling from the shock.

“She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need,” they said in a statement.

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.”

Shattered friends began paying tribute to the slain aid worker who “risked her life many times to help those in dire need”.

Operations pause

World Central Kitchen chief executive Erin Gore described the “unforgivable” attack as one against all humanitarian organisations where food was being used as a “weapon of war”.

The charity paused its operations in Gaza as a result of the deaths.

The United Arab Emirates, the main financier for WCK’s aid efforts through the maritime corridor, said it was pausing such shipments from Cyprus pending further safety guarantees from Israel and a full investigation.

Australia, Britain and Poland, countries that have generally been friendly towards Israel, all demanded action to protect aid workers, underlining Netanyahu’s increasing diplomatic isolation over Gaza.

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 enclave. The deaths of the WCK staffers were “the inevitable result of the way this war is currently being conducted”, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

-with AAP

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