‘Positive engagement’ with Israel over aid worker death

The Australian government has welcomed “positive engagements” with Israel over an investigation into the killing of an aid worker as questions are raised about the prime minister’s response to alleged war crimes.

Retired air chief marshal Mark Binskin traveled to Israel in early May after being appointed as Australia’s special advisor on Tel Aviv’s investigation into the death of Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six World Central Kitchen colleagues.

An Israeli airstrike killed the aid workers in early April in what the Israel Defense Force called a misidentification in the fog of war.

An Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in early April including Australian Zomi Frankcom. (AP PHOTO)

“The Australian government welcomes Israel’s positive engagement with ACM Binskin to date,” a Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson told AAP in a statement.

“The government has made clear to Israel its expectation of a full, thorough and transparent investigation, and demanded full accountability.”

Mr Binskin will provide his report to the foreign minister “in due course”.

It comes as the government defended the International Criminal Court despite criticism from the opposition and Jewish groups after the chief prosecutor announced he’d seek warrants for Israel’s prime minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (AP PHOTO)

Chief prosecutor Karim Khan has sought arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, saying there were grounds to suspect their involvement in possible reasonable war crimes.

They included starvation of civilians and intentionally directing attacks against civilians.

At the same time, Mr Khan sought warrants for three Hamas commanders, saying there were also reasonable grounds to suspect war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, sexual violence and hostage-taking.

Seeking the warrants simultaneously created a false equivalence between the actions of Israel and Hamas, opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Birmingham said.

“We absolutely, utterly reject there being any sense of equivalence between Hamas and the State of Israel,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Simon Birmingham absolutely rejects any sense of equivalence between Hamas and the State of Israel. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Department of Foreign Affairs said it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the court.

“Australia respects the ICC and the important role it has in upholding international law,” a department spokesperson said.

“There is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization.

“Australia has been clear and unequivocal in our condemnation of its terrorist actions.”

Australia was focused on a humanitarian ceasefire, the release of hostages and increased aid to Gaza, Mr Albanese said.

But Senator Birmingham accused the prime minister of “wilful inconsistency.”

“Our prime minister…said he wouldn’t comment on a matter before the courts or a matter before international courts in the very same press conference where he commented on Julian Assange’s case before British courts,” he said.

Anthony Albanese says it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the court. (With Chronis/AAP PHOTOS)

I have questioned the need for the court to issue a warrant when its mandate was to investigate serious crimes “where there are not processes within states to undertake appropriate investigations.”

“We have seen tragic instances such as the death of humanitarian workers, which should not have occurred but Israel also has processes to investigate those,” he said.

Despite the large number of civilian casualties in Gaza, “we do have to recognize that the objectives are profoundly different” between Israel and Hamas,” Senator Birmingham said, pointing to the threat of Hamas on Israel’s doorstep.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 shelters, according to Israel, while its counter-offence in Gaza has since killed 35,000 people and injured about 77,000, the local health ministry surveyed.