Russian-Israeli Irena Tati
A further 16 Hamas hostages have been freed as part of a swap deal agreed with Israel. Image by EPA PHOTO
  • politics

Australia works to secure citizens as hostages released

Dominic Giannini November 30, 2023

Australian officials continue to assist 67 people who want to leave Gaza with the situation described as dire as a temporary ceasefire was extended.

Israel and Hamas agreed on Thursday to extend the six-day truce in their war by at least one more day, Reuters reported.

Sixteen more hostages were freed and there were unconfirmed reports from Hamas that an Israeli family – including an infant – was killed by an Israeli bombardment.

The released hostages taken by Hamas – designated by the Australian government as a terrorist organisation – include Israelis, Thais and dual nationals in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts at a press conference
 Tim Watts says leaving Gaza remains extremely difficult. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts said it remained extremely difficult for anyone to leave Gaza.

Officials have managed to secure the safe passage of 131 Australians from the besieged strip since the bombardments began.

Those who left were met by Australian officials at the Egyptian border and provided onward travel to the capital Cairo, where they received more necessities such as nappies, baby formula, accommodation and assistance getting home.

“It is a dire humanitarian situation on the ground and we want to get them to safety as soon as we can,” Mr Watts told ABC TV on Thursday.

Australian diplomats continue to work with regional partners and countries with influence in the region to secure the safe passage of citizens out of Gaza.

Mr Watts called for steps towards a long-term peace deal through a two-state solution.

“It feels like a long way away at the moment but that is where we need to go.”

Labor frontbencher Ed Husic said it was important all politicians worked to quell division at home after pro-Palestinians protested in the lobby of a Melbourne hotel where family members of Israelis killed and taken hostage were staying. 

The families were in Australia to meet with political leaders.

Mr Husic said while there was always room for peaceful protest, people needed to think about where they should be held, and personal space should be respected.

“When we hold protests, that selection should be very sensitive. We don’t need to be holding protests in front of synagogues or in front of mosques,” he told Sky News.

“Let’s think about protesting and expressing ourselves in a way that keeps the country together.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the protest was beyond contempt. 

“I am appalled by the actions of these protesters and I condemn them,” he told parliament.

“This does nothing to advance the cause of the Palestinian people, it does nothing to advance justice for Palestinians or peace in the region.

“There is no excuse, no circumstances where people should organise a demonstration against grieving families.”

Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton seated opposite in parliament
 Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton have condemned a protest. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called the move “an act of depravity”.

“People have been tortured, raped, murdered and somehow people have seen fit to occupy a hotel lobby or to maintain a presence where they think they can intimidate the families of those victims,” he told parliament.

“It has no place in our country whatsoever.”

Mr Albanese said people needed to have respect and compassion as people of different backgrounds and faiths were hurting.