JOURNALIST: Minister first, what can you tell us about the safe evacuation of Australians from Gaza?
JULIE BISHOP: I have spoken to our Ambassador over the weekend and we did urge all Australians in Gaza to register with the Department and if they were in Gaza to leave as soon as possible. We arranged a one-off assisted passage out of Gaza. This was part of a coordinated convoy with other countries. About 800 foreign nationals left, there were 17 Australians within that group. So it was a convoy from Gaza through to West Bank into Jordan and I understand that all 17 have arrived safely in Jordan.
JOURNALIST: So to your knowledge how many Australians remain in Gaza?
JULIE BISHOP: There are a number of Australians who have chosen to remain for family reasons and personal reasons, only a handful, but there could well be other Australians who are there and not registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So we had over 20 registrations, 17 of them have contacted us and have been taken out to Amman and will now make their own arrangements for onward travel.
JOURNALIST: And your advice to the Australians who’ve decided to stay there?
JULIE BISHOP: To ensure that they have in place evacuation plans if necessary, to remain in touch with our Embassy in Tel Aviv and to make arrangements for their safety. And we know that there is a continuing conflict, it is escalating. We are joining with the international community in urging for a ceasefire, a return to the November 2012 ceasefire, but I know that rockets were coming into Tel Aviv over the weekend. In fact our Ambassador had to go to a bomb shelter and take his family, his children with him because of rockets coming into Tel Aviv.
JOURNALIST: Does Australia have a role at the UN in terms of this situation?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is part of the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member and we have been working with the Security Council on a resolution. A press statement was put out, and Australia supported that, over the weekend and we’ll continue to work with the other members of the Security Council on a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
But Australia in our own right has been calling on both sides to cease the retaliatory action, to cease the rockets being fired by militants into Israel, and for a ceasefire to take place because of course there are civilian deaths and injuries. And this is a deeply, deeply unfortunate and regrettable situation and we just hope for the safety of everyone in that part of the world that a ceasefire can be implemented.
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