Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has urged Israel and Palestine to exercise restraint as violence in the region continues to escalate.
Senator Carr made the statements while visiting Wollongong this morning.
He attended a reception at the Macedonian Community Centre, followed by ‘‘roundtable discussions’’ with Wollongong City councillors and community representatives.
Israeli forces have launched an offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and reportedly struck more than 100 targets, while Gaza militants have launched rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.
‘‘We call for restraint from both sides,’’ Senator Carr said this morning.
‘‘We want an end to those rocket attacks. No nation is going to put up with rocket or mortar attacks on its own population, but restraint from both sides is what’s required now and an avoidance of civilian casualties.
‘‘All this highlights again the need for that ultimate resolution in the Middle East which is a two state solution. A Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel and security guarantees for Israel.
‘‘We all now how it’s going to happen. We all know it’s got to happen. We know the border. We know the lines. The deal is so close yet it continues to be so elusive.’’
Senator Carr expressed a ‘‘deep concern’’ about civilian casualties in the conflict and emphasised the need for a resumption of the peace process.
‘‘In the end its got to be the leadership of Palestine and the leadership of Israel who opt to go to the negotiating table and lay out the map and settle on the details of that resolution,’’ he said.
Mr Carr said he planned to call the Australian ambassador in Tel Aviv to ensure Australian staff were safe.
‘‘They’ve had to take shelter as reports of rocket attacks at Tel Aviv have gained currency. I want to make sure that our staff in Tel Aviv are safe and confirm that anything we can do for them has been done.’’
He said Australians would be ‘‘very ill-advised’’ to go to Gaza.
See the full report in tomorrow's Illawarra Mercury.