Israel special adviser named to probe aid worker death

Kat Wong |

Mark Binskin will provide advice on Israel’s response to the Israel Defence Force strikes.
Mark Binskin will provide advice on Israel’s response to the Israel Defence Force strikes.

A former chief of the Australian Defence Force will act as Australia’s eyes and ears in the Israeli investigation into an air strike that killed seven aid workers, including Zomi Frankcom.

In early April, the Israeli Defence Force launched strikes that killed Australian aid worker Ms Frankcom and six of her World Central Kitchen colleagues as they were delivering food in Gaza.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong announced retired Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin would serve as Special Adviser to the government on Israel’s response to the incident.

“The Australian government has been clear that we expect full accountability for these deaths,” Senator Wong said.

“The appointment of ACM Binskin will ensure the family of Zomi Frankcom, and the Australian people can have confidence in this process.

“Australia has made clear to the Israeli government our expectation and trust that this engagement will be facilitated.”

Some of the issues that will be considered include arrangements for the investigation of the incident, IDF policies and procedures for operational incidents and measures taken to hold those responsible to account.

The special adviser will also engage on whether further investigations are warranted and measures adopted to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Air Chief Marshal Binskin served as chief of the Australian Defence Force from 2014 to 2018 and is currently chair of the Civil Aviation Authority and the Pacific Security College.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the deaths of the aid workers was “utterly inexcusable” and that the information provided by Israel so far had not satisfied expectations.

“We would expect that Mr Binskin will be able to work in a way that provides greater information to Australia,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“If the investigation finds that the Israeli defence force personnel have not acted in accordance with the law, then appropriate action should be taken and such action should be made public.”

Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom
Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza last week. (HANDOUT/SUPPLIED)

An initial IDF inquiry released on Friday found Israeli forces mistakenly believed they were attacking Hamas gunmen when drones hit three World Central Kitchen vehicles.

Two IDF officers have been dismissed and other senior commanders have been formally reprimanded.

UN rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Saul said it was important for Australia to put pressure on Israel.

“There is a very long history of Israel giving essentially impunity to its own forces where allegations of violations have occurred,” Prof Saul told ABC radio.

“Israel has been saying it hasn’t been violating international law, and that flies in the face of all available evidence from day one.”

Even if the air strikes were not a deliberate attack on civilians, Prof Saul noted it could still constitute a war crime if Israel’s offensive caused excessive civilian casualties relative to military advantage, or if the state launched strikes that failed to differentiate between targets and civilians.

“Every state has an obligation to respect its international humanitarian law obligations,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Council for International Development, Australian Global Health Alliance, National Council of Churches in Australia and Australian National Imams Council are calling on the government to sanction Israeli officials who have advocated denying aid to Gaza.

Intergenerational conflicts in the Middle East region involving Palestinians and Israelis escalated on October 7 when militants linked to Hamas attacked southern Israel from Gaza.

More than 1200 people died and up to another 200 were taken hostage, according to the United Nations.

Israel’s subsequent military response has killed more than 33,000 people in Gaza, according to the UN and the local ministry of health.

More than two million people in Gaza are almost completely reliant on aid shipments and 1.1 million are projected to face “catastrophic levels of food insecurity” as Israel’s siege and ground invasion stretches into its sixth month.

with Reuters