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More Aussie aircraft and personnel deploy to strife-torn Middle East

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Australian Defence Force personnel and two additional RAAF aircraft are being sent to the Middle East as violence in Israel and Gaza escalates.

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The move comes as Australia and New Zealand joined global calls for a “humanitarian pause”.

“We call for humanitarian pauses on hostilities, so food, water, medicine and other essential assistance can reach people in desperate need, and so civilians can get to safety,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed the deployment was a precautionary measure that would support Australians in the region in case the security situation deteriorates.

The Australian government is working with 79 people who are trapped in Gaza, but Marles acknowledged they were in a “very difficult situation”.

There will be three RAAF aircraft in the area, though the government has not identified where they will be deployed or the exact number of troops that will accompany them.

“Three aircraft gives us reasonably significant capacity to lift Australians out if an evacuation is required,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

The defence force has helped 394 Australians, their families and approved foreign nations to leave Israel on five flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai. Another flight carrying 97 Australians and approved foreign nationals also flew from Dubai to Perth.

Defence personnel in the region have been accounted for and are safe.

More than 1800 Australians registered with the foreign affairs department have left Israel and occupied Palestinian territories.

“ADF personnel remain available to support these efforts,” defence force chief General Angus Campbell told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Australians remaining in the Middle East have been urged to leave while they still can as experts warn fallout from Israel and Gaza is likely to spread into neighbouring countries.

Services Australia told the Senate estimates hearing it had activated its emergency call centre following the events in the Middle East.

The service helps partner agencies deal with the spike in calls from people seeking information about the emergency.

The government agency also said it was working with DFAT to determine what support services could be offered to repatriated Australians who had returned from the conflict zone.

Israeli air strikes killed 700 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip overnight, the highest 24-hour death toll since Tel Aviv began its total blockade on the territory around two weeks ago.

Since then the government has laid siege to the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the territory, meaning no food, water, fuel or electricity has reached them.

Though some aid trucks have been allowed through, humanitarian organisations say there are not nearly enough to address the dire situation.

The news comes as Israel’s ambassador to Australia defends his nation’s right to self defence following the Palestinian death toll rising to more than 5000.

Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel left more than 1400 dead, with more than 200 people taken hostage.

Since then, retaliatory strikes have killed more than 5000 Palestinians and left a million displaced.

Ambassador Amir Maimon, who will address the National Press Club on Wednesday, said his nation was acting in accordance with humanitarian law.

“Innocent Israelis are suffering following this barbaric attack of the Hamas,” he said.

“You don’t measure the legitimacy of the Israeli response by the number of the casualties.”

Australia is continuing to call for a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza after Jordan secured the release of four Australians and a permanent resident from the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokeswoman Tal Heinrich said Israel was taking into account foreign citizens trapped in Gaza when considering the next stage of its offensive against Hamas.

“We are bringing into account all of these calculations and when we decide to further act in Gaza to really break and crush this organisation, we will do so judiciously and it will be very, very calculated,” she told Sky News.

The government has said all innocent lives matter and called for Israel to act in accordance with international law.

The Australian government lists Hamas as a banned terrorist group.

 

 

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