‘Systemic failure’ from Israel for humanitarian law

Tess Ikonomou |

Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom was killed in a drone strike on April 1.
Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom was killed in a drone strike on April 1.

Israel’s killing of seven aid workers including Australian Zomi Frankcom, reflects a “systematic failure” to commit to the observance of international humanitarian law.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says she and Defence Minister Richard Marles have written to their Israeli counterparts after a briefing on the initial findings of the Israel Defense Forces’ investigation failed to satisfy their expectations.

Senator Wong confirmed on Saturday the government would appoint a special advisor to ensure a thorough investigation into the air strike which struck the convoy of the World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza last week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the announcement of the special advisor will be made “imminently”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese has promised an advisor to investigate the air strike that killed Zomi Frankcom. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Marking six months since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, Mr Albanese said international humanitarian law must be upheld.

“The events which led to Zomi Frankcom losing her life are unacceptable and Australia will continue to seek a resolution and clear information and transparency around this,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

Israel has stood two officers aside from their posts and reprimanded three commanders. No one has been charged.

Cabinet Minister Ed Husic said the incident had resonated with a number of countries because it went to the “heart of concerns” that have persisted around Israel’s observance of humanitarian international law.

“I believe this reflects a systematic failure within the Israeli government to genuinely commit to the observance of international humanitarian law,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Husic said this was behind the more than 30,000 Palestinians killed since the conflict began and the deaths of hundreds of aid workers and journalists.

“This comes down to a failure by the Israeli government to observe international law, distinguishing between combatant and civilian,” he said.

Mr Husic said pressure being placed on Israel by the United States had worked and pointed to the opening up of three entry points to allow humanitarian aid to flow to Palestinians.

He described the decision to appoint a special advisor as a “very big step by our government”.

“We want Australians to have the confidence that we get to the bottom of what’s happened so there’s full transparency and ultimately full accountability for what’s gone on here,” he said.

“(Ms Frankcom) dedicated herself to help the lives of others and she shouldn’t have lost her life in pursuit of that ambition.”

Ed Husic
Ed Husic: Australia needs to be able to demonstrate a defence of international humanitarian law. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Husic warned against the Western international community allowing a perception of hypocrisy to develop from its stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

“We need to be able to demonstrate our values and in particular our defence of international humanitarian law,” he said.

The industry minister took a swipe at the coalition for being “utterly silent” and “very weak” in failing to acknowledge Israel had “crossed the line”.

Asked if Israel needed to take greater care with protection of civilian lives, Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said mistakes happened during war.

“Israel should be learning from each of those mistakes and making necessary changes in procedures to ensure that it is applying as safe an environment as possible for humanitarian workers,” he told ABC’s Insiders. 

The coalition expected Israel to continue its investigations and for there to be accountability and transparency, Senator Birmingham said. 

“It’s not the only tragedy to have occurred, in many other conflicts involving humanitarian aid workers,” he said.