Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says so far 17 Australians have been assisted out of the Gaza Strip as violence intensifies.
Ms Bishop has told Sky News 20 or so Australians had registered with the Australian Embassy as being in the Gaza Strip but this number may be higher as many could be dual-passport holders.
“Australians in Gaza are urged to leave as soon as possible,” Ms Bishop told Sky News.
“We know there are about 20 or so Australians registered who are in Gaza and I believe we have assisted 17 so far.”
The Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv is arranging a one-off assisted departure of Australians from Gaza, and the Federal Government has asked those wanting to leave to urgently contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Ms Bishop warned Australians that delayed contacting the embassy, risked having to find their own way out of Gaza.
The government has upgraded its travel warnings for the area amid reports that more than 130 people have been killed since the violence began five days ago.
Ms Bishop said both sides had been told to de-escalate the violence, but neither had done so and the situation is continuing to deteriorate.
“The retaliatory acts from both sides that have led to civilian deaths and injuries are deeply regrettable, and I call on all parties to exercise restraint and do everything necessary to avoid a further escalation of violence,” she said earlier.
In light of worsening violence in the Gaza strip, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will ask the United Nations to put the state of Palestine under “international protection”.
“President Abbas will present a letter to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to officially put the State of Palestine under the UN international protection system and to form a legal committee for immediate follow-up,” a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) statement said.
Abbas also wants a commission of inquiry into Israel’s massive air bombardment of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to halt militant rocket fire into the Jewish state.
“Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is undertaking several steps and measures to deal with the horrific situation in Gaza,” senior PLO member Hanan Ashrawi said.
Abbas has asked Switzerland, the depository of the fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in wartime, to summon the contracting parties and ask them to place sanctions on Israel as the occupying power responsible under the convention for the safety of civilians.