Why Albo won’t call for immediate ceasefire

A post shared by WCK. Picture Instagram.JPG
Australian aid worker Lalzawmi Frankcom has been killed in Gaza. Picture: Instagram

Anthony Albanese has stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as the family of an Australian aid worker killed there say their “brave and beloved” ‘Zomi’ died doing the work she loved.

Melbourne-born Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, is one of five volunteers from World Central Kitchen – including one person from Poland and one from Britain – who were killed in an air strike on Monday local time.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Frankcom’s family said “we are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza”.

Zomi Frankcom is believed to have been killed in Gaza. Picture Facebook.jpg
Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom was killed in Gaza. Picture: Facebook

“She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need.

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.

“We are still reeling from the shock and we humbly request privacy during this difficult time,” the family said.

Speaking on ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday night, the Prime Minister said the Israeli ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon “isn’t well today”, so Mr Maimon and Foreign Minister Penny Wong had not spoken.

“There have been calls put in by the Foreign Minister to her counterpart and I have put in a request to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well to speak with him directly,” Mr Albanese said.

The Prime Minister said the targeting of civilians was completely unacceptable, but when asked if he had any information to suggest the aid vehicle was targeted, he said: “Well, what we know is that the vehicle was hit and we know as well that governments are responsible for actions that take place.”

The Israeli Defence Force had not confirmed reports it struck the vehicle of Ms Frankcom and her colleagues, Mr Albanese said, so “we want an explanation and full accountability of what has occurred here”.

Asked repeatedly if Australia needed to call for an immediate ceasefire, the Prime Minister said Australia had called for a “humanitarian ceasefire and a sustainable ceasefire”.

Mr Albanese said it was “not in the interest of either Israelis or Palestinians for this to continue”.

“We have called for ceasefires. We’ve voted that way in the United Nations and we’ve put out statements, calling for that way,” he said.

“But it must be sustainable. You don’t want a ceasefire and then it to recommence in just a short period of time.

“The hostages have to be released as well and we need a path to a sustainable peace in the region.”

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister also demanded accountability from the Israeli government.

He told reporters it was “completely unacceptable” that someone volunteering their time to help those suffering “tremendous deprivation” in Gaza was killed.

“Australia expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers, which is completely unacceptable,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He has requested a call to the Israeli ambassador to Australia and contacted the Israeli government directly.

“We want full accountability for this because this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is a human tragedy that should never have occurred. That is completely unacceptable, and Australia will see full and proper accountability as you would expect for how this could have occurred.”

A post shared by WCK. Picture Instagram.JPG
She was delivering food to civilians in Gaza when the air strike hit. Picture: Instagram

On Tuesday morning, Mr Albanese told ABC Radio Brisbane that he was “very concerned about the loss of life that is occurring in Gaza”.

“My government has supported a sustainable ceasefire. We’ve called for the release of hostages and there have been far too many innocent lives of Palestinians and Israelis lost during the Gaza-Hamas conflict,” he said.

Shocking photographs shared to social media show the bloodied covers of three international passports – including one Australian – after the air strike.

Ms Frankcom’s friends have shared tributes on social media, describing her as a “beautiful person”.

Photos of bloodied passports – including one Australian – have been posted to social media. Picture: Twitter
Photos of bloodied passports – including one Australian – have been posted to social media. Picture: Twitter

“There are no words I can use to tell you what a beautiful person she was. I’m so blessed to have called her a dear friend,” one person said in a post to X.

“Rest in peace our beautiful sister,” a second wrote to Facebook.

One friend said Ms Frankcom was on the ground in Braidwood in the NSW Southern Tablelands during the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires offering aid to the local community.

Ms Wong said tributes for Ms Frankcom told of a life dedicated to the service of others, and said the death of any aid worker was “outrageous and unacceptable”.

“Her tireless work to improve the lives of others should never have cost Ms Frankcom her own,” Ms Wong said.

“The Australian government condemns this strike. The government has made representations to the Netanyahu government and seeks a thorough and expeditious review,” Ms Wong said.

“We expect full accountability for these deaths.

“We repeat our demands for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire leading to a sustainable ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and that international humanitarian law be upheld.”

Her LinkedIn profile suggests she worked as a Senior Manager at World Central Kitchen Asia Operations based out of Bangkok, Thailand for the past year and nine months.

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Damage caused in Gaza by Israeli air strikes. Picture: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

However, the 42-year-old worked a corporate-dominated career before making the move to the charity in 2019.

She spent four years with Carnival Australia cruising company and eight years with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

A post shared to the World Central Kitchen’s Instagram page shows Ms Frankcom on-board a Royal Jordanian Air Force cargo plane on March 14.

The team had recently air-dropped meals to civilians in northern Gaza.

Ms Frankcom was described as a ‘beautiful person’. Picture: WCK/ Instagram
Ms Frankcom was described as a ‘beautiful person’. Picture: WCK/ Instagram

A week ago, she shared a video of the team cooking thousands of portions of beef and vegetable stew at the Deir al-Balah kitchen inside the Gaza Strip.

WCK has delivered more than 1700 trucks full of food and cooking equipment through the Rafah Crossing at the border between Cairo, Egypt and Palestine.

“We are aware of reports that members of the World Central Kitchen team have been killed in an IDF attack while working to support our humanitarian food delivery efforts in Gaza,” the organisation said in a post to Instagram just before 11am (AEST).

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER.”

WCK founder Jose Andres said the team “lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza.”

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family. These are people … angels … I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia.

“They are not faceless … they are not nameless.”

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The woman is the first Australian to be killed during the conflict. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said civilian lives needed to be protected.

“We have been very clear that we expect humanitarian workers in Gaza to have safe and unimpeded access to do their lifesaving work,” they said.

Australia’s peak aid and humanitarian agency body expressed its deepest condolences to Ms Frankom’s family.

Australian Council for International Development chief executive, Marc Purcell, said it was “truly tragic that an Australian aid worker, working to provide food to starving civilians, has been killed in this fashion”.

“She died doing truly heroic work,” he said.

“The laws of war protecting humanitarian workers and civilians are being flagrantly disregarded by the Israeli Government and Defence Forces,” Mr Purcell said.

At least 196 aid workers have killed to date in this latest Israel-Hamas conflict.

Aid was being blocked form entering northern Gaza, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starving to death, and humanitarian agencies in the south were under “enormous strain” from air strikes, Mr Purcell said.

“We call on the Australian Government to urge the Israeli Government to cease attacks on aid convoys and to allow for the safe land passage of humanitarian assistance.”