Federal minister joins Middle East crisis talks on Gaza

Tess Ikonomou |

Australia will join Middle East emergency talks over the deteriorating situation in Gaza after hundreds of Palestinians were reportedly killed in an Israeli rescue mission.

Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly will this week travel to Amman for an international conference hosted by Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations.

Human rights groups have condemned the loss of Palestinian life following a mission which freed four Israeli hostages captured by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack.

More than 270 people were killed and almost 700 wounded after the Israeli military operation, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

Palestinians help a wounded man after Israeli strikes in Gaza
The government has committed $62.5m in humanitarian assistance to the region since the war began. (AP PHOTO)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the hostages should never have been taken from their families in the first place, and that a longer-term solution to ending the conflict was needed.

“I very much welcome hostages being reunited with their families,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Oxfam’s Middle East regional director Sally Abi Khalil said she welcomed the return of the hostages to their families after eight months in captivity.

“However, the horrifying massacring by Israel of at least 274 displaced and starving Palestinians during the operation to release the hostages was an unacceptable and unconscionable price to pay,” she said.

“This apparently indiscriminate killing may amount to a war crime and must also be investigated.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Dr Aly would bring her professional expertise and knowledge, gained through experience as an Egyptian-born Australian, to represent the nation.

“The human suffering in Gaza is unacceptable,” she said on Monday.

“Australia has been part of the international push for a ceasefire, for humanitarian aid to reach Gazans in desperate need, and for hostages to be released. 

“Australia’s participation in this conference is part of that international effort.”

Anne Aly speaks in parliament
The foreign minister says Anne Aly brings knowledge from experience as an Egyptian-born Australian. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Dr Aly said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was “catastrophic”.

“Our participation in this conference will emphasise Australia’s ongoing support for diplomatic efforts to end the conflict and to address the humanitarian crisis,” she said.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said he wasn’t in a position to comment on whether the hostage rescue was a massacre, after reports of Palestinian deaths.

“It’s fair to say that as a conflict has gone on, and we’ve been horrified by the images that we’ve been seeing, and that’s why we’ve been steadfast in calling for a humanitarian ceasefire,” he told ABC’s Radio National.

The federal government has committed $62.5 million in humanitarian assistance to the region since the Hamas-Israel war began in October.

More than 37,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas in October, local health officials say.

Israel’s military operation was precipitated by the October 7 assault in which militants killed 1200 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages.