Australia calls on Israel to let humanitarian aid flow

Dominic Giannini |

Penny Wong said politicians should come together to underline the urgency of an immediate ceasefire.
Penny Wong said politicians should come together to underline the urgency of an immediate ceasefire.

Australia has called on Israel to stop blocking humanitarian aid into Gaza and backed a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and release of Israeli hostages.

The rare absence of a veto by permanent Security Council members about the war in Gaza was “a rare moment of agreement in the international community” that Australia needed to acknowledge, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

“It would be churlish of us not to,” she said on Tuesday, during a debate on a Senate motion that reaffirmed the council’s resolution.

“We should be able to come together to underline the urgency of an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan.”

The resolution also emphasised an urgent need to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians in Gaza.

Labor’s motion subsequently called for “immediate action … taken by Israel” to comply with the call for more humanitarian aid and remove barriers blocking assistance entering Gaza.

All sides of politics needed to come together to support the Security Council resolution that also called for Hamas to release all hostages, Senator Wong said.

“If the divided United Nations Security Council can come together on these issues, then we ought be able to,” she told the chamber.

The flow of humanitarian assistance was contingent on all parties co-operating, the opposition warned.

“Hamas has been filmed and recorded looting and stealing humanitarian assistance for their own purposes,” opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said.

“So to place a moral judgement on one party in this conflict, rather than reflecting that all parties must play a role in the provision of humanitarian assistance, would be improper.”

Protester holds the Palestinian flag at a demonstration in Sydney
Australia has backed a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire and release of hostages. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

The coalition voted against the motion after it failed to amend it to more closely link the ceasefire with the release of hostages, more expressly condemn Hamas and reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself.

Without commenting on the specifics of reports of aid being denied, senator Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, said it was in Israel’s interests to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and doubted there was a blanket aid blockage.

The Greens and independent senators David Pocock and Lidia Thorpe supported the motion, which passed 29 votes to 22.

The foreign minister branded “unacceptable” reports of aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency being denied access to Gaza.

Senator Wong flagged diplomatic channels were being utilised to send the same message.

Australia recently reinstated funding for the UN organisation, which Israel wants disbanded and replaced, after freezing it in January following allegations staff were involved in Hamas’ October 7 attack.

The agency assured Australia there would be more transparency and accountability in how money was spent, Senator Wong said in justifying the reinstatement of funding.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to local authorities, after Israel launched a campaign against Hamas following its attack which killed 1200 people and resulted in more than 250 hostages being taken, according to Tel Aviv.

AAP