Advertisement

Albanese demands ‘full accountability’ for Zomi Frankcom’s death as IDF calls strike a ‘misidentification’

Anthony Albanese says he used a phone call with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to express Australia’s anger and outrage over the killing of the aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom in Gaza.

The Australian prime minister said the Israeli drone attack on a seven-member team from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity on Monday would only add to international concerns over “the extraordinary loss of life” in Gaza.

Albanese said he had demanded “full accountability” over the incident and “conveyed to prime minister Netanyahu in very clear terms that Australians were outraged by this death, by this tragedy, of this fine Australian”.

Related: Zomi Frankcom’s family say Australian aid worker killed in Israeli airstrike was ‘doing the work she loves’

“I expressed Australia’s anger and concern at the death of Zomi Frankcom,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Zomi was an Australian aid worker working for the World Central Kitchen providing support for people who are suffering from tremendous deprivation in Gaza.”

The three cars were struck by Israeli drones when they travelled along a route south of Deir al-Balah pre-approved and coordinated with the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, said the strike was “a grave mistake” that “followed a misidentification at night, during a war, in very complex conditions”.

“We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK,” he said.

Netanyahu said it was “a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip”.

“This happens in wartime. We are thoroughly looking into it … and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

Despite Netanyahu’s public comment that such things happened in times of war, Albanese said the Israeli prime minister in the phone call “did accept responsibility” for the tragedy “so there was no equivocation there”.

But the Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, had a sharper response to Netanyahu.

“I would say to Mr Netanyahu that wartime does not obviate responsibility for observing international humanitarian law, including the protection of aid workers,” Wong told the ABC.

She noted that the conflict in Gaza had been “particularly fatal for aid workers” and cited UN figures that about 196 aid workers had been killed. “This is unacceptable.”

Wong, who also spoke with the Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz on Tuesday evening, reiterated that “unless Israel, Mr Netanyahu, changes his course of action, Israel will continue to lose [international] support”.

“We say to Mr Netanyahu: you must change course,” Wong said.

Pressed on whether Israel was ignoring such demands, Wong said nation states made their own decisions “and those decisions may include acting in ways which diminish their standing internationally”.

The Australian government has repeatedly condemned Hamas’ 7 October attacks, but has also called for the protection of civilian lives in Israel’s military response.

As the death toll and warnings of famine have mounted, Albanese and his ministers have expressed growing concerns about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

Wednesday’s call between Albanese and Netanyahu lasted about 20 minutes. Albanese said he had “made clear, again, that it is Australia’s view that humanitarian assistance must reach people in Gaza unimpeded and in large quantities”.

But Albanese did not give a direct answer when asked whether he had spelled out any potential consequences to Netanyahu if Israel did not conduct a satisfactory investigation into Frankcom’s death or change the course of its war more generally.

Albanese said he had reiterated Australia’s longstanding concern with Israel’s plans for a ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and the consequences for the more than 1 million Palestinian civilians sheltering there.

Related: Charities halt Gaza aid after drone attack that killed seven workers

“I indicated very clearly Australia’s view, as I have in every conversation I have had with prime minister Netanyahu, our support for a two-state solution in the Middle East, support for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security with prosperity side by side.”

Netanyahu has previously ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state, insisting he would “not compromise on full Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River”.

When asked on Wednesday how his message had been received, Albanese said: “Prime minister Netanyahu expressed his views and I expressed the views of Australia.”

Albanese, whose government has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire since December, said the US decision last week not to veto a UN security council ceasefire resolution was “a clear indication of global opinion”.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said it was “a tragic circumstance where an aid worker has lost their life in a very difficult war zone”.

Dutton said innocent people were losing their lives in Gaza as “a direct result of Hamas’ attacks on the 7th of October”. He called on the militant group to release hostages “so that a ceasefire can be entered into”.

The General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said it was “shocked and grieved” by the killing of Frankcom and other colleagues who were delivering “desperately needed humanitarian aid to northern Gaza”.

It said humanitarian relief personnel “should never be targeted by attacks”.

The president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, called on the Australian government to hold Israel to account “for its continual breaches of international law” and to avoid “weak language”.

“This is not a tragedy, this is a crime,” he said.