Australia says Israeli information on killing of WCK aid worker in Gaza 'not sufficient'

AFP , Saturday 6 Apr 2024

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Saturday that information from Israel about an Australian aid worker killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza was "not sufficient".

Penny Wong
File photo: Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. AP


US-based World Central Kitchen said a "targeted attack" by Israeli forces on Monday had killed seven aid workers.

The group included 43-year-old Australian national Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom, as well as British, Palestinian, Polish and US-Canadian employees.

After being briefed by Israeli authorities, Australia had "made clear that we have not yet received sufficient information to satisfy our expectations" about Frankcom's death, Wong told reporters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later admitted that his military had "unintentionally" killed the group -- who had helped feed communities affected by conflict and disaster -- in an air strike.

"We expect full accountability for her death and for the World Central Kitchen colleagues who also perished with her," Wong said.

"We believe these deaths are utterly inexcusable and clear practical action is needed to ensure these tragedies are never repeated."

Wong acknowledged that Israel has confirmed that two individuals involved in the air strike have since been "stood down".

"We reiterate that appropriate action must be taken against the individuals who are responsible for these tragic accidents," she added.

Wong described the air strike as a "deadly failure of deconfliction" -- the process by which humanitarian agencies engage with military forces to ensure their safety in conflict zones.

She says Australia wants full answers from the ongoing investigation by Israel.

"It cannot be brushed aside and it cannot be covered over," Wong added.

"Our expectation is that there is full transparency. People have been raising concerns for some time about what is occurring in relation to humanitarian workers," she said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rang his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu on Wednesday to express his "anger" over the tragedy.

Television clips and posts on social media painted a picture of Frankcom as an intrepid aid worker who did not shy away from the frontlines of disaster.

In September last year, she travelled to Morocco to help World Central Kitchen relief efforts in the wake of a devastating earthquake.

World Central Kitchen is one of two NGOs spearheading efforts to deliver aid to Gaza by boat from Cyprus as an Israeli siege on the territory has pushed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the brink of famine.

The UN and several humanitarian agencies have stressed that there is no alternative to lifting the siege on Gaza, but Israel has kept all land crossings into the territory shut since the start of its war on 7 October.

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a session on Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war in the Gaza Strip upon a request from the Arab group at the UN.

Friday's Security Council session comes as major humanitarian groups warned Thursday it was now almost impossible to work in Gaza due to Israel's restrictions and nonstop bombardment, with one asserting that countries providing arms to Israel are complicit in what "amounts to genocide".

The UN has already said that Israel's severe restrictions on aid to war-ravaged Gaza and its ongoing hostilities could amount to using starvation as a weapon of war, which would be a war crime.

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