Palestine aid call as alarm sounds after Rafah invasion

Dominic Giannini and Kat Wong |

Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from Rafah.
Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from Rafah.

Palestine’s envoy in Australia has called for a $25 million humanitarian aid package as the federal government expresses concerns about Israel moving into Gaza’s last refuge.

More money should be given to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to help get humanitarian aid into Gaza, Izzat Abdulhadi said.

Australia could help provide aid including food and medical supplies through other organisations on the ground, he said.

Palestine's ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi (file image)
Izzat Abdulhadi says humanitarian aid is urgently needed for Palestinians. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

“The situation is crucial,” he told AAP, referring to widespread starvation and displacement.

He has held talks with Department of Foreign Affairs officials and raised the issue with Foreign Minister Penny Wong last week.

The prospect of a new aid package was raised during Senator Wong’s meeting with the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Mustafa on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concerns about where Palestinian civilians would go after Israel invaded the last refuge in Gaza.

The government had made its position clear to Israel over the past day following the ground invasion, Mr Albanese said.

“What we have done again is to communicate to Israel our opposition for a ground invasion in Rafah because we’re concerned about the civilian population there,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“They were told to move from the northern part of Gaza. They were told to move south … it’s not clear where they are supposed to go, given the destruction that’s occurred to housing in other parts of Gaza.

“So we are very concerned about that.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (file image)
Anthony Albanese says the government holds concerns for the civilian population in Rafah. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said Israel had a right to defend itself against Hamas, a designated terrorist organisation by Australia, but it had to adhere to international law.

“Israel needs to, of course, ensure any activities have due regard for international law and seek to ensure that civilian life is protected so far as possible,” he told ABC TV.

Doctors Without Borders has called for the protection of civilians and for the Rafah border crossing to be reopened.

“The decision to close this crossing further exacerbates the already dire living conditions for people trapped in Gaza,” Gaza team leader Aurelie Godard said.

“These people are again forcibly displaced, moving from makeshift tents to another place without adequate shelter, food, water and medical care.”

ActionAid Palestine called on the international community to act and for a ceasefire.

“It would be indefensible to order the evacuation of more than a million people from the area when there is nowhere safe for them to go, nor with the capacity to receive them,” advocacy co-ordinator Riham Jafari said.

“The international community has repeatedly warned that this cannot be allowed to take place. Now is the time to act.”

Mr Albanese also affirmed Australia’s commitment to a two-state solution ahead of a United Nations General Assembly vote to include Palestine as a fully-fledged member.

However, the vote is non-binding.

It’s the government’s longstanding position to recognise a Palestinian state, but no timeline has been attached.

Israel launched an invasion of the Gaza Strip following an attack by Hamas that killed an estimated 1200 people and resulted in more than 250 people taken hostage.

In response, the Israeli military has killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians and injured at least 77,000 others, according to the local health ministry.