The Australian Government notes with deep concern the unfolding tragedy in Gaza. Many Palestinian civilians have lost their lives along with a growing number of Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The Australian Government supports Israel’s right to defend itself from the attacks of Hamas and other militants. No country should have to tolerate arbitrary and indiscriminate attacks upon its civilian population by rocket fire and infiltration through tunnels. However, in exercising its right to self-defence, Israel must take all necessary steps to prevent civilian casualties.
I am deeply troubled by the suffering being endured by the Palestinian population in Gaza, where many hundreds of innocent people have been killed, including women and children. There have been a number of shocking incidents, including the indefensible shelling of three UN schools, all of which were sheltering civilians. Australia supports calls for a full investigation into these incidents. Both sides must respect international humanitarian law.
Hamas has failed to embrace a series of opportunities to end the conflict, most recently through its almost immediate violation of a humanitarian ceasefire negotiated for 1 August. This was a flagrant violation of an agreement reached with UN and US mediation and demonstrated a callous disregard for the welfare of the people of Gaza.
The violence must stop as soon as possible. I welcome the announcement of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire to commence later today. Israel and Hamas must fully commit to and implement this humanitarian pause. Then the priority must be to reach a permanent ceasefire agreement that brings an end to the killing and recrimination. All efforts must be directed at these objectives.
The Australian Government commends the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and others to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those impacted by the conflict. To respond to growing humanitarian needs, I announced on 28 July that Australia would provide $5 million for urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza, which is in addition to our existing commitment of $56.5 million for 2014-15 for development assistance to the Palestinian Territories.
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