Investigation into Israeli air strike that killed aid workers must be made public, Albanese says

Investigation into Israeli air strike that killed aid workers must be made public, Albanese says
  • PublishedApril 4, 2024

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected suggestions a deadly attack on an international aid convoy in Gaza can be explained away as an unfortunate consequence of war, and is demanding the Israeli government publish the findings of its investigation into the incident.

Seven aid workers from charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed, including Australian woman Zomi Frankcom, when an Israeli air strike hit the vehicles they were travelling in on Monday.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government accepted responsibility for the incident, but argued it was “unintentional” and that it was something that “happens in war”.

Mr Albanese spoke to Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday morning and expressed his “outrage” over the air strike, and sharpened his rhetoric on Thursday when questioned about the situation further.

“The Israeli defence force have accepted their responsibility for this tragic event, we need to have accountability for how it’s occurred,” Mr Albanese said.

“What isn’t good enough is the statements that have been made, including that this is just a product of war.

“This is against humanitarian law – international humanitarian law makes it very clear that aid workers should be able to provide that aid and that assistance, free of the threat of losing their life.”

Image of Zomi Frankcom smiling while wearing a cap and a black t-shirt with the WCK logo. Behind her are a lot of kids.
Zomi Frankcom was described by family and friends as relentless in her efforts to help those in need.(Supplied: Facebook)

Mr Albanese’s comments followed scathing criticism of Israeli forces by the founder of WCK, Jose Andres.

He argued Israel had directly targeted his staff, despite clear communication from WCK to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) about the aid convoy movements.

“I have demanded full accountability for what has occurred, they have committed to a full and proper investigation,” the prime minister said.

“I want that to be transparent and I want those findings to be made public so that we find out how exactly this can occur.

“There has been too many innocent lives lost in Gaza … it should not be the case that innocent Palestinians or people assisting them are made to pay the price for the actions of the terrorist group Hamas.”

Former World Vision chief calls for AFP involvement

The IDF has put forward conflicting positions on the attack.

Its chief of staff has apologised for the attack, but said a preliminary investigation had found its forces misidentified the aid workers’ vehicles and added it was unintentional.

But defence sources have told Israeli media that the air strike occurred as a result of a commander disobeying direct orders.

Former World Vision chief executive Tim Costello said the investigation should not be left to the IDF, and Australia should push for international involvement.

Alliance for Gambling chief advocate Tim Costello looking serious with his arms folded and trees behind him
Tim Costello says Australia cannot leave the investigation to be conducted solely by Israel.(ABC News: Brendan Mounter)

Mr Costello said the Australian Federal Police should be involved, and the investigation be conducted at arms’ length from Israel’s military.

“We should be seizing the initiative with other countries and Joe Biden has talked about his outrage and we’re feeling that too, and say, ‘Thank you for promising an investigation, these are the terms of reference we would like to see and this is the body we would like to see investigate’,” Mr Costello said.

“I think we should absolutely use that leverage at the moment.”

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi agreed that an investigation by Israel would be “totally unacceptable”, and said Australia must do more.

“Just a phone call simply isn’t good enough. The Australian government must respond with actions, not words,” Senator Faruqi said.

Earlier, Mr Albanese told the ABC he agreed with Spain’s prime minister that Israel’s explanation of events was insufficient and unacceptable.

Coalition maintains accident a ‘tragic reality’ of war

The Federal Opposition has taken a much less definitive approach in responding to the deadly attack, in a nod to the Coalition’s pro-Israel stance and seeming to echo Benjamin Netanyahu’s language that such an attack can happen in the fog of war.

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor repeatedly referred to the fact an Israeli air strike which killed the aid workers as “allegations”, even when pressed on the fact the IDF had made the concession.

“I’m not in a position to be able to assess the veracity of those allegations — they are very serious, the situation is tragic,” he told the ABC.

“War is tragic, this is a very tragic set of circumstances.

“We saw an attack from Hamas that started this off, which was truly extraordinary, and these are the consequences of these sorts of actions.”

Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said the attack “should not have happened,” but issued the caveat that “the tragic reality is that mistakes do happen in war”.

“I’m not going to leap to pre-judge what should be a full and thorough investigation, and the findings of which should appropriately be made transparent,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley shared the sentiments.

“I note the outpouring of grief and anguish from Australians, from Israelis, from Jewish people and I wait, as many do, for the investigation to run its course,” she told reporters in Kiama.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment until that investigation completes.”

Nationals leader David Littleproud said his heart went out to Zomi Frankcom’s family, appreciating “the trauma that they’re feeling” – but he added that “we need to understand that this is a war zone and so a very fluid situation where you can’t control the environment entirely”.

“Those mistakes happen in environments such as war and I think we just need to be careful about how far we take that,” Mr Littleproud said on Sky News.

On Wednesday Opposition Leader Peter Dutton offered his condolences to Ms Frankcom’s family, but said the situation was a consequence of Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7.


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