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Race to confirm welfare of Australians in war zone

Australia has updated travel advice for the Palestinian enclave of Gaza to 'do not travel' and is advising people in Israel to exercise extreme caution.


Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Image AAP

Australia does not need to increase security after an "abhorrent" attack by Islamist group Hamas on Israel as the government works to determine if any citizens have been caught up in the conflict, the prime minister says.


Hamas fighters rampaged through Israeli towns on Saturday, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.


It's the deadliest incursion since Egypt and Syria's attacks in the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago.


At least 700 people, including children, have been killed, Israeli media reported. Israel has not released an official toll. 


Gazan authorities say more than 400 people, including 20 children, have died in Israeli retaliatory strikes.


Hamas also took multiple hostages and thousands on both sides have been injured.


However, Israeli and Jewish people in Australia don't need to increase their security, Anthony Albanese said on Monday as he again condemned the attacks and reiterated Israel's right to defend itself.


"But there are issues here - we know there's been a rise in anti-Semitism," he told Sky News.


"I know this will cause real concern amongst people ...  anti-Semitism unfortunately, is present and it's just wrong."


Australia stands with our friend Israel in this time.


We condemn the indiscriminate and abhorrent attacks by Hamas on Israel, its cities and civilians.


We recognise Israel's right to defend itself.


— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) October 7, 2023


The Foreign Affairs Department is working around the clock to confirm the welfare of Australian citizens in Israel.


"We are in constant contact between Australian officials and Israeli officials," he told ABC TV.


"We don't have any further information to announce at this point in time but obviously we are concerned, as is the whole world - this is a place where citizens of the world do gather."


Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the attacks were "abhorrent".


"We unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages," Senator Wong said at Melbourne Airport on Monday.


Australians who are in Israel are being asked to contact their families to "assure us all of your safety".


Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the coalition "utterly condemns the unprovoked and abhorrent attack by militant Hamas on Israel".


The Coalition utterly condemns the unprovoked and abhorrent attack by militant Hamas on Israel.


It is yet another example of a deliberate act of violence intended to inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians.


The attack is a provocation. Israel has every right to defend itself…


— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) October 7, 2023


The attacks have greatly hampered any peace efforts, Australia's former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said as the US tries to broker a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia to limit tensions in the region.


"It also makes it difficult for Israel to be in a mood to make any sort of concessions to the Palestinians and that was the only way an Israel-Saudi peace deal was going to be done," he told ABC radio.


The attack has also shaken Israel's sense of security, with Hamas using weaponry and capabilities it didn't know they had.


"It's clear this has not only been an intelligence failure but an operational failure," Mr Sharma said.


"Not only did they not see this attack coming but all the measures that Israel has in place, which are formidable across the border with the Gaza Strip, have failed here."


Australia also updated its travel advice for the Palestinian enclave of Gaza to 'do not travel' and is also advising people in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories to exercise a high degree of caution.


Overnight, Israel has pounded Gaza in retaliation for one of the bloodiest attacks in its history, which is being dubbed Israel's 9/11, in keeping with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge of "mighty vengeance".


Australian Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said on Sunday the current situation was a result of Israel's recent escalation of attacks.


"Israel hasn't been defending itself, it's been waging war on Palestinians each and every day for decades," Mr Mashni said in a statement. 


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