Turnbull: Hamas to blame

Palestinian protestors near the Gaza border on Monday. Photo: EPA/Mohammed Saber

THE deadliest day of violence on the Gaza border since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 saw 58 Palestinians reportedly killed on Monday while trying to infiltrate into Israel, around half of them known terrorists, according to the Israel Defence Forces.

As Israeli soldiers dealt with pipe bombs, explosives, live fire and flaming kites, calls for a proportionate response echoed through international diplomatic channels while outright condemnation of Israel’s defensive actions emanated from South Africa and Turkey.

The United Nations called for restraint but also insisted it was Hamas’s responsibility to prevent violence and provocations.

In a stronger condemnation of the terror group, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the loss of life tragic but placed the blame squarely at Hamas’s feet.

“Hamas’s conduct is confrontational. They’re seeking to provoke the Israeli Defence Forces,” he told 3AW Radio host Neil Mitchell on Tuesday. “They’re pushing people to the border in an area, in that conflict zone … into circumstances where they are very likely to be shot at, as Israel seeks to defend itself.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recognised Israel’s “legitimate security concerns” but called on it to “refrain from excessive use of force”, also urging Gazans to “refrain from violence and attempting to enter into Israeli territory”.

Israel’s ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer expressed regret at the loss of life but said, “We must remember that recent events are a direct continuation of the wave of violence organised by Hamas, a murderous terror organisation whose stated aim is the destruction of the State of Israel.

“The purpose of these riots is one; storming the security fence between Gaza and Israel to attack Israeli civilians.”

But federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused Israel of using excessive force “against Palestinians exercising their legitimate right to engage in nonviolent protest”, while in the NSW Legislative Council, Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi moved a one-sided motion on Tuesday calling on the Israeli government “to cease attacks on civilians and end the blockade of Gaza”.

Around 700 anti-Israel protesters gathered outside Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday evening.

Laying the blame squarely on the terror group, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim condemned “the cynical manipulation by Hamas of its own people, including children, to sacrifice their lives in order to make a false political point”.

GARETH NARUSNKY