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‘Cannot continue’: Penny Wong issues warning to Israel

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Penny Wong has warned Israel “this cannot continue”, as she condemned the “horrific … death and destruction” left by a deadly Israeli attack on civilians in southern Gaza.

In an opening statement to senate estimates on Tuesday, the Foreign Minister – representing the Prime Minister – made reference to Sunday’s air strike, which hit a tented area for displaced Palestinians in Rafah.

At least 45 people have been confirmed dead by local authorities, the majority of whom were women and children, with dozens more injured.

After initially labelling the air strike as a “precise attack” on a Hamas air strike, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said his military had made a “tragic mistake”.

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Camera IconForeign Affairs Minister Penny Wong appeared before senate estimates on Tuesday for questions over Prime Minister and Cabinet. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Senator Wong first labelled the air strikes as “horrific and unacceptable” on X on Tuesday morning, but went further during the afternoon, warning the Netanyahu government not to continue “down this path” in relation to Rafah.

“What we have seen in the past 24 hours reinforces why we, and the international community, issued this warning,” Senator Wong said.

“The death and destruction in Rafah is horrific. This human suffering is unacceptable.

“We reiterate to the government of Israel – this cannot continue.”

She said the government wanted to see an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and continued to call for the release of all hostage by Hamas, and for Israel to “allow aid to flow at scale, as directed by the International Court of Justice”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt had earlier criticised Senator Wong for her “empty” statement on X.

“Empty statements like this are exactly why the Israeli regime believe they can get away with massacring civilians,” Mr Bandt said.

“No sanctions. No weapons contracts cancelled.

“There are no consequences from this Labor government.”

WA Labor senator Fatima Payman – who earlier this month broke party ranks to repeat the controversial phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” despite Mr Albanese’s widespread condemnation – was emphatic on Monday when she labelled Israel’s strike as “deplorable”.

“We must demand an end to this genocide, stop all trade, divest, and recognise a Palestinian state,” she said.

Footage from Sunday’s air strike showed heavy destruction, burning buildings, and civilians sifting through wreckage.

A spokesperson from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society has warned the death toll would likely rise as search and rescue efforts continued.

Israel’s air strike came after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor last week applied for warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister, as well as three Hamas leaders, over their involvement in atrocities since October 7.

The Albanese government has so far not commented while it waits for the ICC to make its decision on whether or not to grant the arrest warrants.

Mr Albanese was asked by Mr Bandt in Question Time on Tuesday whether he could “reaffirm Australia’s full commitment to the court”, “condemn the calls from the opposition that Australia should consider cutting ties with the ICC if it issues warrants”, and whether Australia would “seek to arrest any person for whom the court issues a warrant, such as Mr Netanyahu”.

Mr Albanese did not directly answer the question, instead reaffirming “Australia’s consistent position in all contexts is to call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international law”.

“We must have a humanitarian ceasefire so that civilian life can be protected. We must have increased humanitarian assistance delivered to Gaza,” he said.

“Every innocent life matters, whether it is Israeli or Palestinian, and my government consistently and will consistently support a two-state solution, which recognises the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security with prosperity.”

Originally published as ‘Cannot continue’: Penny Wong issues warning to Israel

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