Constituency Statement - Middle East: Occupied Palestinian Territories

27 March 2024

Ms BYRNES (Cunningham) (09:44): Today, Muslim constituents in Cunningham are marking the holy month of Ramadan. This weekend, people will mark the holy Christian period of Easter, and in April it will be Passover. These holy periods in all religions are times for reflection, peace and goodwill to others, but this year also brings pain, as many feel great sadness, anger and fear for their loved ones and the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. One member of a local mosque said to me that, each night when they break their fast, they feel anguish at the situation in Gaza—for families or children that have been killed, for those who are going without food and shelter. It brings great sadness and guilt. Our government and governments around the world continue to plead for peace, for civilian life to be protected and held paramount, for an immediate ceasefire now during Ramadan, and a lasting ceasefire—for aid to get into Gaza, for hostages to be released.

What happened on 7 October was horrific, and our hearts go out to all of the families affected by the attack. There can be no excuse for such an attack. But Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price. Too many Palestinian families have been decimated and too many innocent lives have been lost. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the government of Israel's response, including over 13,000 children. This is unacceptable, horrific, and it must stop. Israel has a moral obligation, if nothing else, to stop. The restrictions on aid into Gaza to help the wounded, the starving and the trapped must be lifted. The stories of women undergoing caesareans, and children undergoing amputations, without anaesthetic are horrific. Innocent Palestinians do not deserve to suffer, and our hearts go out to them.

Our foreign minister last night in the Senate called on all parties to the conflict in Gaza to comply with the UN Security Council's demand in relation to the ceasefire—that immediate action must be taken by Israel to remove all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance and that Hamas comply with the immediate and unconditional release of hostages. The world demands it, and I strongly support this call. I would like to acknowledge the members of the UNSC, along with other global leaders, including Minister Wong, for their advocacy, as I know how much work this requires behind the scenes. The catastrophe is complex and dates back many decades, but for me the answer is very straightforward: the lives of innocent civilians must be protected, and I urge the government of Israel and Hamas to work towards a pathway for peace and work towards a two-state solution. I urge the government of Israel and Hamas to agree to an immediate and lasting ceasefire, release the hostages and allow aid into Gaza. The innocent people caught in the middle deserve lasting peace.