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Statement: Foreign Minister’s reference to a ceasefire in Gaza welcomed

Nov 13, 2023 | Media Releases

The Australian aid and humanitarian sector welcomes Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s statements over the weekend regarding the Israel-Palestine war, in which she raised a ceasefire for the first time. 

Senator Wong told ABC Insiders that: “We all want to take the next steps towards a ceasefire, but it cannot be one-sided. Hamas still holds hostages. Hamas is still attacking Israel.” 

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) recognises this comment as the first time the Australian Government has indicated support for a ceasefire in hostilities. Senator Wong’s comments indicate that the Government recognises the depth of civilian suffering unleashed by this conflict, and that Australia has a role to play. 

A ceasefire means that military activity by all parties to the conflict in Gaza must end. 

“A ceasefire is about prioritising the needs and rights of civilians,” said Marc Purcell, ACFID’s CEO. 

“Calling for a ceasefire is not a radical position, as some claim it to be. In fact, it’s the bare minimum. Almost half of the Palestinian death toll is made up of children,” he said. 

“A child is dying every ten minutes in the hostilities in Gaza, according to the World Health Organization. This mortality rate of children is intolerable. The children need and deserve peace.” 

The aid and development sector would like to see Australia now use its voice and reputation as a middle power to advocate to other nations to add their voices to a call for a ceasefire between the warring parties. 

“A ceasefire would allow negotiations on the hostages to resume, humanitarian assistance to reach those in dire need, and the terrible civilian death toll to stop climbing. We owe it to the children to stop the fighting,” said Mr Purcell.  

The position of international humanitarian agencies is that International Humanitarian Law is meant to protect life, and state parties are obligated to do everything to uphold the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

IHL explicitly forbids the targeting of hospitals and medical personnel, as per the Geneva Convention.

ACFID has unequivocally condemned Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7 as abhorrent, and continues calls for Australia and other like-minded nations to pursue every avenue in negotiations to release all hostages.  

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact [email protected] or call 0401 721 064.