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Australian citizens left to face Israeli bombardment
The Howard government has displayed a calculated indifference to the plight of the estimated 25,000 Australian citizens trapped by the Israel bombardment of Lebanon since July 12. In keeping with its unequivocal support for the Israeli assault, Canberra has acquiesced in the Israeli government’s refusal to grant even limited ceasefires to allow the evacuation of Australian and other foreign nationals.
As of Friday morning, less than 500 of the terrified Lebanese-Australians living, studying, working, holidaying or visiting their families in the country had been given any assistance to escape the Israeli shelling. Some were taken by bus to Syria and some by ship to Cyprus. Many more had been forced to find their own way out, taking taxis or cars across bombed-out roads. Tens of thousands more are still desperately trying to flee southern Lebanon or Beirut. Others are out of contact, their plight unknown.
The contempt displayed by the Australian government toward the fate of the bombing’s victims was highlighted on Thursday when about 400 people, including children, were left stranded on the docks or at a bus depot in Beirut after promised ferry ships failed to arrive. Already traumatised from witnessing bomb blasts, death and destruction, they were left waiting all day in the blazing sun with few facilities.
The same indifference has been shown toward the likely killing of Australian citizens by Israeli forces. According to an Australian man who fled the bloodshed in the southern Lebanese town of Aitaroun, where eight Canadian citizens were killed in an Israeli air raid, Australians also died there. But Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer dismissively declared that the government had no corroborating information. There was no suggestion of even investigating the report, let alone lodging a protest with Israel.