Australia to increase humanitarian funding for Gaza

The Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong, has commenced her visit to the Middle East by committing to almost double humanitarian funding. She expressed deep concern about the deteriorating conditions in Gaza.

Following talks in Jordan, Wong announced $21.5 million in new funding directed towards conflict-affected populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and addressing the regional refugee crisis, with a focus on women and children. This brings Australia’s total humanitarian assistance pledge to approximately $46 million since October.

The funding includes $4 million for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, $6 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and $11.5 million for refugee programs in Lebanon and Jordan amid growing regional instability.

Wong emphasized Australia’s grave concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. She made the announcement after meeting with Jordan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, who has raised alarms about the impact of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Wong refrained from speculating on Australia’s potential stance if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issues binding provisional measures in the coming weeks. She acknowledged the ICJ’s critical role in upholding the rules-based order but clarified that Australia did not necessarily accept the premise of South Africa’s case against Israel.

During her visit, Wong plans to meet survivors of the October 7 Hamas attack and relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza. She will also visit the occupied West Bank to meet communities affected by Israeli settler violence and conclude her trip with a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Australian Council for International Development urged Wong to use the visit to advocate for a permanent ceasefire and immediate humanitarian access, citing the staggering human toll of the conflict, with 1.9 million people, or 85% of Gaza’s population, displaced.

The Australian Council for International Development, representing the aid and humanitarian sector, called on Wong to leverage Australia’s influence in advocating for a permanent ceasefire and urgent humanitarian access during her visit. Jessica Mackenzie, the acting chief executive of the council, emphasized that while Australia may be geographically distant from the conflict zone, its voice carries weight, and urged the foreign minister to call for an unequivocal ceasefire to prevent further unnecessary civilian deaths in Gaza.

Wong’s visit to the Middle East began with discussions in Jordan, where she met with the country’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Ayman Safadi. Jordan has expressed concern about the broader regional impact of Israel’s actions in Gaza and has voiced support for South Africa’s case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Israel breached the genocide convention.

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese asserted that court cases, such as the one brought to the ICJ, would not achieve peace between Israel and Palestine, Wong refrained from speculating on Australia’s potential stance if the ICJ were to issue binding provisional measures. She emphasized Australia’s longstanding position of support for and respect for international law.

Wong’s itinerary includes a visit to Israel, where she plans to meet survivors of the October 7 Hamas attack and relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. She will also travel to the occupied West Bank to engage with communities affected by Israeli settler violence and conclude her trip with a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

As Wong continues her diplomatic efforts in the region, the international community watches closely, hoping for meaningful steps toward a lasting ceasefire and improved humanitarian conditions for the people affected by the conflict.

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