‘Deadly failure’: Penny Wong’s concerns over Israel’s aid worker killings response

Key Points
  • Penny Wong continues to demand accountability from Israel after its military killed seven aid workers.
  • An Israeli inquiry into the incident has found serious failures and breaches in procedure.
  • Wong described the incident as a “deadly failure”.
Israel’s initial response to a strike by its military that killed seven aid workers suggested it did not appreciate the seriousness of the deadly incident, Foreign Minister Penny Wong says.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday made public the findings from its investigation into a strike that killed seven aid workers, including earlier this week. Ambassadors of the countries where those killed held citizenship had already been briefed.

It found serious errors and breaches of procedures were behind the attack.

Wong on Saturday told reporters the federal government had written to Israel’s government after receiving a verbal briefing, and raised concerns that Israel had not taken “appropriate action” in reprimanding those responsible for the attack.
“Israel’s initial responses suggest that the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government,” Wong said.

She acknowledged that two military officers had been dismissed since the letter was sent, which she described as a “necessary first step”.

Wong reiterated and said the Israeli government had been asked to ensure evidence of the attack was preserved.
However, Israel has not yet confirmed whether it would honour this request, Wong said.
The IDF report, which Australian officials are yet to see in full, was completed in three days.
The military says the case has been handed over to the military advocate general to consider a possible criminal investigation.
Wong said that if the investigation found IDF troops had acted unlawfully or had not adhered to defence procedures, “appropriate action” must be taken against them and made public.

“And if the investigation determines that IDF targeting policies and practices have contributed, that urgent adjustments are made — and communicated publicly,” she said.

Wong said the federal government would appoint a special adviser to review Israel’s investigation and had requested the Israeli government cooperate with them.
“We also… raised concerns on behalf of the country that Israel’s initial responses suggest that the gravity of the death of seven humanitarian workers is yet to be appreciated by the Israeli government,” she said.
She described the killing of the seven aid workers as a “deadly failure”.

“It cannot be brushed aside and it cannot be covered over,” Wong said.

IDF acknowledges ‘serious failures’ over aid worker killings

The inquiry found Israeli forces mistakenly believed they were attacking Hamas gunmen when drones hit the three vehicles of the World Central Kitchen aid group and that standard procedures had not been followed.
“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures,” the military said in a statement issued on Friday.
The army pledged to address the fact that it had been unable to see the rooftop logos in the dark as part of a wider package of lessons to draw from the disaster.
While the international community has commended Israel for acknowledging its failures, it now faces pressure to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the safety of humanitarian workers and civilians was paramount.
“Even more important is that steps are being taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again,” he said.

“As Israel pursues any military operations against Hamas, it has to prioritize the protection of civilians. It has to make that job number one.”

An inquiry says Israeli forces mistakenly thought they were attacking gunmen instead of aid workers. Source: AAP / Ismael Abu Dayyah

More than 33,000 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel declared war on Hamas — the militant group that rules the occupied Palestinian territory — in retaliation to the when Hamas militants killed over 1,100 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages.

Over 200 of those killed in Gaza have been humanitarian workers, according to the Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security Database.
Hamas’s stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state and stop the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, illegal under international law.
Hamas in its entirety is listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and seven other countries, including Australia. But the United Nations Assembly rejected classifying Hamas as a terrorist group in a 2018 vote.
In 2021 the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories dating back to 2014, including the recent attacks of both Israel and Hamas.

With additional reporting by Reuters.

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