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Australian ex-PMs condemn Hamas, urge Israel to avoid civilian deaths

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All but one of Australia’s living former prime ministers have come together to condemn the actions of Hamas and call upon Israel to take measures to protect civilian lives. Simultaneously, they expressed their unwavering support for both Jewish and Palestinian communities within Australia.

In a joint statement released on Monday, the six former leaders emphasized the importance of combating racial and religious hatred within the country, cautioning against the Israel-Hamas conflict dividing Australians. Their statement conveyed the sentiment of standing in solidarity with Jewish Australians and the Australian Palestinian community, who are deeply affected by the ongoing conflict.

The former prime ministers did not mince words when condemning Hamas, characterizing their attacks on October 7 as “cruel and murderous,” with comparisons to the horrors perpetrated by ISIS. They accused Hamas of intentionally seeking reactions that would result in numerous civilian casualties in Gaza, with little regard for the well-being of either Palestinians or Israelis.

Despite their criticism of Hamas, the former Australian leaders stressed that Israel’s military actions against Hamas must prioritize the safety and well-being of Gaza’s civilian population. They urged Israel to fulfill its promise of avoiding civilian casualties with compassion and skill, expressing profound concern over the tragic loss of life, particularly among Palestinian children.

Signatories to this statement included Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, John Howard, Julia Gillard, and Kevin Rudd, representing a bipartisan group of leaders from both the Liberal and Labor Parties. However, Paul Keating, who served as Australia’s prime minister from 1991 to 1996, notably refrained from joining his counterparts. He cited a lack of details when explaining his decision after being approached by Mark Leibler, the former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

Australia’s current government, led by Labor’s Anthony Albanese, recognized Israel’s right to self-defense while simultaneously calling for restraint on all sides to safeguard civilian lives. Nevertheless, some Labor politicians broke ranks to criticize Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In a recent United Nations vote, Australia chose to abstain from a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza, which passed with overwhelming support, citing its “incompleteness” due to a failure to mention Hamas by name. The ongoing conflict has inflicted a heavy toll on both sides, with over 8,005 Palestinians, including more than 3,200 children, and at least 1,405 people in southern Israel falling victim to the violence, as reported by authorities.

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