Australia ‘gravely concerned’ at Israel-Gaza war crimes

Dominic Giannini |

Ed Husic has lamented the civilian death toll from the hostage rescue operation.
Ed Husic has lamented the civilian death toll from the hostage rescue operation.

Australia has expressed grave concerns about a United Nations inquiry that found both Israel and Hamas responsible for war crimes.

There were two parallel reports into Hamas’ killing of about 1200 Israelis and taking of some 250 hostages and Israel’s subsequent response.

Both sides conducted the war crimes of torture, murder or wilful killing and inhuman or cruel treatment, the UN Commission of Inquiry found.

The “immense” scale of killings in Gaza, where the death toll stands at more than 37,000 according to the local health ministry, constituted a crime against humanity.

Israel also committed the war crime of starvation by failing to supply essentials such as food, water, shelter and medicine while blocking other organisations from doing so, it found.

Tel Aviv did not co-operate with the UN Commission of Inquiry and accused it of having an anti-Israel bias.

Australia was “gravely concerned by the findings”, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

“Australia has consistently reiterated that all parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law,” they said.

“The human suffering in Gaza is unacceptable and this war must end. Civilians must be protected.”

Australia continued to press for a ceasefire and the release of all hostages, the spokesperson said.

There was no equivalence between Israel and Hamas, they added, condemning the actions of the designated terrorist group.

Cabinet minister Ed Husic
Minister Ed Husic has raised concerns about Israel’s failure to protect innocent people. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Cabinet minister Ed Husic raised concerns about “a systemic failure” by Israel and its military to observe humanitarian law and the protection of innocent lives, saying Australia needed to speak up about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

That 270 people were killed in an operation to rescue four hostages highlighted a broader issue of how “the Israeli government was observing international humanitarian law and being able to distinguish between combatant and civilian”, he said.

“I’m very happy that hostages were released,” Mr Husic told ABC Radio on Thursday.

However, he said the death toll was “such a brutal price” to pay and that “innocent Palestinians should not pay the price for holding Hamas to account”.

The Greens have seized on the report to call for the government to expressly condemn Israel’s actions, with Senator Jordon Steele-John saying Labor’s refusal to do so was a “damning indictment”.

Labor senator Fatima Payman, who has called for the government to take stronger action, said history was “replete with examples of women who broke the silence and sought freedom from the shackles of injustice and inequality”.

Labor Senator Fatima Payman (file image)
Fatima Payman says the plight of women is being forgotten in the war. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“We continue that plight for all womenkind, from Gaza to Australia,” Senator Payman told AAP in a statement ahead of a panel discussion on Thursday about silence on women’s equality.

Activist Sisonke Msimang hoped to shed light “on how Arab, Muslim, and African women have perceived the silence on Gaza from the mainstream women’s movement”.

“So far, those who normally speak out about gender injustice in Iran, Afghanistan, and many other parts of the world, have failed to condemn Israel’s assault on women who are being deprived (of) their rights,” she said.