Gaza killings: Australia plans to appoint independent adviser to review Israeli investigation | Australian foreign policy

Australia has demanded that Israel preserve all evidence surrounding the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza and also consider appointing an independent adviser to review the official investigation.

The Australian government said Friday that information provided by Israel into its investigation into the murder of Australian citizen Zomi Frankcom and her colleagues at World Central Kitchen “has not yet met our expectations.”

The comments come after Australia received a briefing on the initial findings of the Israeli investigation on Friday morning. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said later Friday that it had fired two officers and reprimanded three others for their role in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers during a food delivery mission, claiming they mishandled critical information and violated the military’s rules of engagement.

The findings of a retired general’s investigation into Monday’s killings constitute an embarrassing admission by Israel, which faces growing accusations from its main allies, including the United States, of not doing enough to protect Gaza’s civilians from its war with Hamas, the AP reports.

The findings are likely to reignite skepticism about the Israeli military’s decision-making. Palestinians, humanitarian groups and human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of recklessly shooting civilians throughout the conflict – an accusation Israel denies.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said official responses to the incident “suggest that the seriousness of the deaths of seven aid workers has not yet been appreciated by the Israeli government.”

“Australia is concerned by initial advice from the (Israeli) Foreign Ministry that those responsible for ordering and implementing the operation that killed Ms Frankcom and her colleagues had not been resigned during that the investigation is being carried out,” Wong said in a statement. Friday, before the IDF’s announcement.

Wong and Defense Minister Richard Marles were to write to their Israeli counterparts outlining Australia’s demands for the continuation of the investigation and its pressure to hold those responsible to account.

These requirements include that all evidence be preserved. This comes after the charity WCK said it had “called on the Israeli government to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and other material potentially relevant to the April 1 strikes.”

Three WCK vehicles were hit by Israeli drones on Monday while traveling on a route south of Deir al-Balah pre-approved and coordinated with the IDF.

Wong and Marles were also expected to tell their counterparts that any findings that the IDF’s targeting policies and practices contributed to the deadly incident should trigger urgent adjustments and be announced openly.

The Australian government also plans to appoint a “special advisor” to help review the Israeli investigation.

This person, who has not yet been named, would likely be an Australian figure with expertise in military matters and international humanitarian law.

The adviser’s role would be to ensure that the investigation was conducted in a manner consistent with the expectations of the Australian government.

Marles said the deaths “were completely inexcusable and clear practical action is needed to ensure such a tragedy never happens again”.

The Israeli army called the strikes a “serious error” that “followed an identification error.”

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She said Friday that the findings of her investigation had been presented to the ambassadors of the countries whose citizens were killed.

WCK said Thursday it had asked the governments of Australia, Canada, the United States, Poland and the United Kingdom “to join us in demanding an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks.”

The charity said such an investigation should determine whether the attacks were carried out intentionally or whether they violated international law.

Australian Greens deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi called for “an independent war crimes investigation into the deaths of Zomi and other aid workers, by an agency like the International Criminal Court.”

Israel faces growing international pressure following the incident, with Joe Biden telling Benjamin Netanyahu that future US support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza would depend on taking concrete steps to protect civilians and workers humanitarians.

The US president also called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza “to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians,” the White House said.

Shortly after the call, Netanyahu’s office announced that Israel would open the Erez crossing into northern Gaza, arguing that increased aid was “necessary to ensure continued fighting and achieve the objectives of the war.”

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, said the WCK deaths were “not an isolated incident” as “at least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in the OPT since October 2023”.

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