Foreign minister Penny Wong calls Israeli air strike on aid workers a ‘deadly failure’

Foreign minister Penny Wong calls Israeli air strike on aid workers a ‘deadly failure’
  • PublishedApril 6, 2024

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the death of seven aid workers, including an Australian, cannot be “brushed aside” by Israel following its internal investigations into the deadly air strike. 

Senator Wong called the air strike on a World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid convoy in Gaza which killed Australian Zomi Frankcom a “deadly failure”. 

“People have been raising concerns for some time about what is occurring in relation to humanitarian workers,” she told reporters on Saturday.

“It cannot be brushed aside and it cannot be covered over.

“I do not believe any Australian would expect us to do anything other than to continue to demand the transparency and accountability we have.” 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Friday it dismissed two officers and reprimanded another three  in response to its initial findings on the deaths. 

An Israeli retired general’s investigation of the attack found the officers mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

Senator Wong said the Australian government expected Israel’s response to the incident to include “full accountability”, adding she had joined with Defence Minister Richard Marles to write a letter to their Israeli counterparts, expressing Australia’s demands for transparency. 

In the letter, Senator Wong said, the government raised concerns over Israel’s initial response to the strike. 

“We also, in our letter, raised concerns on behalf of the country that Israel’s initial responses suggest that the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government,” Senator Wong said. 

Wong yet to see written copy of Israel’s findings 

The Australian government wants Israel to preserve all evidence from the investigation of the strike to allow for further scrutiny if required. 

Senator Wong noted Australia’s ambassador to Israel had been briefed by the IDF but added she had not yet seen a written copy of the Israeli findings, nor a response to the Australian government’s request. 

Details on the announcement of an Australian “special adviser” working on the response to the deadly strike would come in the “near future”, the foreign minister added. 

“In my discussions with my colleagues, [we decided] it’s appropriate for us to have a suitably qualified person to provide us with advice so that we can have confidence on behalf of the country in the process and to press for the appropriate process,” Senator Wong said. 

That adviser will be someone with expertise in military and humanitarian law, and will be named in the coming days.

No decision on criminal liability yet, Senator Wong says 

WCK has demanded the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings, adding “the IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza”.

Another one of the aid workers killed in the attack was from Poland and the country’s foreign ministry says it “demands that the preliminary findings we see now be turned into criminal liability”.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” Senator Wong said.

“That would be a question as to whether the facts merited that, and what I would say is appropriate action should be taken.

“The facts need to be ascertained, and once the facts are ascertained, appropriate action needs to be taken.”


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