Ex-ADF chief to oversee Israel aid worker deaths probe

Kat Wong and Andrew Brown |

Mark Binskin will provide advice on Israel’s response to the killing of aid workers.
Mark Binskin will provide advice on Israel’s response to the killing of aid workers.

A former defence chief 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.

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.

Mr Binskin served as chief of the Australian Defence Force from 2014 to 2018 and chairs the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Pacific Security College.

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

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

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 examine measures adopted to prevent similar incidents from occurring and whether further investigations are warranted.

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 Zomi Frankcom and other aid workers were killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza. (HANDOUT/SUPPLIED)

But Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Mr Binskin had been given a “mission impossible”.

“This is about a political outcome for the prime minister, I’m sorry to say,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“What the prime minister is doing here in appointing Mark Binskin is not hoping for some discovery of a silver bullet … what the prime minister is doing here is trying to find a pathway through what’s obviously a torn ALP.”

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson welcomed Mr Binskin’s appointment but claimed it was a double standard that the government had not reacted similarly to the death of Sydney-born woman Galit Carbone, who was killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

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,” Professor 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.

with Reuters