9 April 2024

Former Defence Chief appointed to investigate Israeli drone strike that killed Aussie aid worker

| Andrew McLaughlin
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ACM Mark Binskin

ACM Mark Binskin (Ret’d) will report to Senator Penny Wong on whether further investigation into Israel’s actions is warranted. Photo: ADF.

Former Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin (Ret’d) has been appointed to serve as a Special Adviser to the Government on Israel’s response to its drone strikes, which killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers last week.

The drone strike by the Israel Defense Forces killed Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom and six colleagues as they were travelling in three clearly marked WCK vehicles along the Gaza coastline on 1 April.

In a statement on 2 April, Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong said, “The tributes flowing for Lalzawmi’ Zomi’ Frankcom tell the story of a life dedicated to the service of others, including her fellow Australians during natural disasters.”

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

“The government expresses its deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones, just as we mourn all civilian deaths in this conflict.”

Following the deaths, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly brushed aside Australia’s initial concerns, describing the strike as “unintentional” and what “happens in war”.

Following an internal investigation, the Israeli military subsequently dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in the strike, saying they had mishandled critical information and had violated the conflict’s rules of engagement.

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On 6 April, Senator Wong described the strike as a “deadly failure of deconfliction”.

“People have been raising concerns for some time about what is occurring in relation to humanitarian workers,” she told media.

“It cannot be brushed aside and it cannot be covered over.

“I do not believe any Australian would expect us to do anything other than to continue to demand the transparency and accountability we have.”

The appointment of ACM Binskin will see him engage with the Israeli Government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on their response to the attack.

His remit will include an examination of arrangements for the investigation of this incident, IDF policies and procedures for operational incidents, measures taken to hold those responsible to account, whether further investigation is warranted, and what measures have been adopted to prevent such incidents happening again.

The government has made its expectations clear to the Israeli government and trusts the engagement will be facilitated.

In an interview on ABC Radio on 8 April, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government had made it clear to Israel that the deaths are “utterly inexcusable and the action is needed to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated, and we also want full accountability for these deaths”.

“Now, the information that Israel has provided so far on its investigation hasn’t yet satisfied our expectations, so we would expect that Mr Binskin will be able to work in a way that provides greater information to Australia.”

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ACM Binskin retired as Chief of Defence Force (CDF) in 2018. A former Royal Australian Navy then RAAF fighter pilot with over 30 years of flying experience, he had previously held the positions of Vice-Chief of Defence Force, Chief of Air Force, Commander Air Combat Group, and Commanding Officer of No 77 Squadron flying the F/A-18A Hornet.

After leaving Defence, ACM Binskin Chaired the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, and he is currently Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority and of the Pacific Security College. He also flies historical aircraft with the RAAF’s 100 Squadron historic flight based at Temora in NSW.

“His experience and expertise mean ACM Binskin is eminently qualified to provide the Australian Government advice on the sufficiency and appropriateness of steps taken by the Israeli Government,” Senator Wong said.

“The Special Adviser will provide advice to the Australian Government regarding any further representations or actions that could be taken to ensure a full and transparent investigation and to hold those responsible to account.

“The Australian Government has been clear that we expect full accountability for these deaths,” she added.

“The appointment of ACM Binskin will ensure the family of Zomi Frankcom, and the Australian people can have confidence in this process.

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