Gaza: Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham says he is ‘not in a position’ to say if Israel’s killing of aid workers breaches UN law

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A senior Liberal says Israel’s killings of aid workers should have been prevented but has refused to call the attacks a breach of international law, as the Coalition faces accusations of being “weak” amid outrage over Israel’s conduct in Gaza.

Two Israeli officers were sacked after an investigation found drone strikes that hit three charity vehicles, killing seven humanitarian workers including Australian Zomi Frankcom, on Monday violated military procedures.

Under pressure to answer if he thought Israel’s actions constituted a war crime, opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said it would be “naive” to pretend that mistakes do not happen in war.

“You’re asking me to give a legal judgement that I am not qualified nor with all the facts to be in a position to give a judgement,” Senator Birmingham told ABC’s Insiders.

“We want to make sure processes are transparent (into Ms Frankcom’s death) and ensure that this tragedy is never repeated again.”

Asked if he was satisfied with Israel’s attempts to reduce the deaths of innocent civilians, Senator Birmingham argued its government had a responsibility to uphold international law and had been “rightly held to account” by many around the world.

“Let me ask you this one more time. Do you think Israel needs to take greater care with the protection of civilian lives?” ABC Insiders host David Speers asked.

“Israel needs to take care with the protection of civilian lives consistent with its obligations under international law as we have said from October 7 onwards,” Senator Birmingham responded.

Australia appointed its own independent advisor to scrutinise Israel’s investigation into the aid workers deaths after Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the initial probe hadn’t satisfied the government’s expectations.

“We do not accept any suggestion that this is just something that can be brushed aside as just something that happens in war,” she said on Thursday.

Senator Birmingham said that the Coalition wanted to see “clear action” in terms of understanding how the death of Ms Frankcom occurred but argued Israel had held itself to account more so than Hamas.

“We would also wish to see the hostages held by Hamas released and is that is something that often seems to get overlooked in the public debate,” he said.

Earlier, Industry Minister Ed Husic accused the Coalition of being “utterly silent” and “particularly weak” in its response to the incident.

“Frankly, the Coalition has not brought itself to be able to express its concern, either to people domestically who are deeply worried the way in which the tragic loss of life, the number of people killed in this operation.”