Wednesday, May 29, 2024

‘This cannot continue’: [Australia's Penny] Wong demands Israel halt Rafah offensive


‘This cannot continue’: Wong demands Israel halt Rafah offensive

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has demanded that Israel halt its military campaign in the southern Gazan city of Rafah after dozens of civilians were killed in an air strike, as a global medical charity called for Australia to implement sanctions on Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military had made a “tragic mistake” in an air strike that set fire to a camp, pictured, that was housing displaced Palestinians and killed at least 45 people. But Israeli shelling and airstrikes continued overnight, killing at least 37 more people, most of them sheltering in tents outside Rafah. More than a million Palestinians from elsewhere in Gaza have sought refuge in Rafah during the war.

The Israeli military suggested Sunday’s blaze in the tent camp may have been caused by secondary explosions, possibly from Palestinian militants’ weapons. But Wong said the events of the past 24 hours had shown why world leaders, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, had forcefully warned Israel against launching a military campaign in Rafah. She said the human suffering “cannot continue” and called for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire so civilians can be protected”. Her comments came as Christos Christou, the global president of Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), told the National Press Club he wanted Australia to take “immediate, concrete actions to hold Israel to account”.

Christou accused Israel of conducting an “indiscriminate and disproportionate military campaign”. He said he wished he could “find the words to express the smell of infected wounds, the cries of mothers who’ve lost their children, the constant sound of drones, the level of desperation of my colleagues”. Israel has insisted that it needs to conduct a military campaign in Rafah to dismantle Hamas’ remaining battalions. But in a sign of Israel’s growing isolation on the world stage, Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognised a Palestinian state yesterday. After Hamas killed 1200 people in their October 7 attack on Israel, more than 36,000 Palestinians have died, 80,000 have been injured and 1.7 million have been displaced.

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