Australia is adding an extra $15 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza as the foreign minister continues to call for a safe passage for innocents out of the besieged strip.
Recent humanitarian aid into Gaza — where Israel is enforcing a blockade on fuel and supplies — was welcomed but was not enough, Foreign Minister Penny Wong told a Senate hearing on Thursday.
“We are deeply distressed that international efforts to secure civilian passage out of Gaza and efforts Australia has engaged in and is actively supporting are yet to be successful,” she added.
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The foreign minister also urged Israel to consider how it responds to Hamas’ deadly attack.
She again cautioned Israel to act within the parameters of international law.
“Innocent Palestinian civilians should not suffer because of the outrageous (actions) perpetrated by Hamas,” she said.
“The hopes of peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians will recede even further if today’s generations are motivated by grief and resentment resulting from this crisis.”
Wong reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defence, adding Australia mourned with both Jewish communities and Palestinian communities who had lost thousands of their kin.
Australian government sanctions and asset freezing have been put in place against Hamas-linked persons and entities. Further sanctions were flagged by department officials.
Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Australia.
Australia unequivocally condemned Hamas’ terrorism and grieves the loss “of every innocent life, whether that be Israeli or Palestinian”, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after meeting US President Joe Biden in Washington.
Israel has reported 1400 casualties and more than 200 hostages taken, while the Palestinians say the death toll of the retaliatory strikes has reached 6500.
But Biden said he had “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using”.
The Australian government is providing consular assistance to almost 140 Australians and their families including seven in Israel, 51 in the West Bank and 79 in Gaza.
More than 1900 Australians and their families registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs have left Israel and occupied Palestinian territories, including hundreds through government assisted repatriation flights.
More than 1200 people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories remain registered with the foreign affairs department but about 430 have their names down for information only.
Between 10,000 and 12,000 Australians are believed to be in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories at any one time.
Australians are being advised not to travel to Lebanon and those there are being told to leave due to the situation’s volatility and fears the conflict could spill over into neighbouring countries.
The long-term Australian community in Lebanon numbers about 15,000 and thousands more are expected to be there short-term.
Slightly fewer than 400 people in Lebanon have registered with the department.
Asked if the message was being heeded by Australians, one department official said “there was every indication it was not”.
Israel’s ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon said his nation didn’t want to fight another front against Lebanon if Hizbollah — a terrorist organisation banned by the Australian government — joined the conflict on Hamas’ side.
But Israel would protect its citizens and territory against its “provocations” if needed, the ambassador said.
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