9 Oct 2023

Hamas invasion and Israel's response: 'A sequence of crimes'

4:02 pm on 9 October 2023
A member of the security forces walks past an Israeli police station in Sderot after it was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas militants who were stationed inside, on October 8, 2023. Israel's prime minister of October 8 warned of a "long and difficult" war, as fighting with Hamas left hundreds killed on both sides after a surprise attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)

A member of the security forces walks past an Israeli police station in Sderot after it was damaged during battles to dislodge Hamas militants who were stationed inside, on 8 October 8, 2023. Photo: RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has again spoken of New Zealand's "absolute condemnation" of the Hamas attack on Israel at the weekend.

His comments came on the campaign trail in Auckland ahead of Saturday's election.

Hipkins said he spoke to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday morning to "compare notes". He thought the New Zealand and the Australian positions were "very aligned" and they had agreed to keep in touch.

He asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta to make sure New Zealand was "poised and ready to contribute to any international humanitarian response to the situation".

Hipkins said he went over the numbers on Sunday and believed there was only one New Zealander registered with SafeTravel in the Palestinian territory, and roughly a couple of dozen in Israel.

Commercial flights were still operating, he said, so there were opportunities for any New Zealanders in the area to leave.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT] had a 'do not travel' advisory for Gaza, and essential travel only, to Israel he said.

Consular support for New Zealanders in the area was available, and details of that was being provided to all those who had registered with the SafeTravel website, Hipkins said.

There had not been any reports of any New Zealanders being caught up in the immediate conflict, either through injury or being held as hostages.

"New Zealanders in Israel are advised to remain security conscious; monitor local media and stay informed of developments," SafeTravel's official advice read.

"Register on SafeTravel and, if you require consular assistance, contact the New Zealand 24/7 Consular Emergency Line on +64 99 20 20 20."

Putting his campaign hat back on, Hipkins said the Labour Party was committed to a two-state solution, "obviously recognising the aggressive, unwarranted, attacks that have happened in the last 48 hours".

"It's regrettable that Hamas has launched this attack. I think Israel is well within its rights to defend itself."

He said there were international conventions about proportionality of response and "we would expect all countries to follow that".

Watch Hipkins' full press conference here.

Disproportionate response likely - expert

A University of Waikato international law professor said while Israel had a right to defend itself, neither side should commit war crimes.

"What you're probably going to see from here is a ground incursion into Gaza [by Israeli forces]," professor Alexander Gillespie told RNZ's Midday Report.

"What you're seeing is a sequence of crimes, and whether you're indiscriminately firing missiles into a other population - without distinguishing between combatants and civilians - is a war crime, when you're taking hostages it's a war crime, and obviously if you're executing people whether they're civilians or soldiers it's a war crime, and you're seeing a sequence of terrible actions right now and atrocities.

"For Israel, they will probably respond with disproportionate force - which is their pattern - and that too can be a war crime, when they don't make sure that their results are proportionate to the military achievement they need to achieve.

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Alexander Gillespie Photo: Alexander Gillespie

"We still need to be trying to find the basic standards of humanity and how people can treat each other in times of conflict.

"Israel unquestionably has a right to defend itself, but other people on the other side will argue that what's happened with Hamas is justifiable - it's a mistake to think in those types of terms - and people should not mix justification with the method of warfare which are crimes.

"Any hope of a peace process has been pushed further to the side and this will undoubtedly destabilise a lot of the relationship going on they've been trying to normalise with Israel.

"And some countries will probably start to rethink their position if the conflict in Gaza worsens, which I think is likely."

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