Mark Dreyfus yet to confirm killed Australian’s Hezbollah links
28 December 2023, The Australian, by Rachel Baxendale
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is unable to say whether Australia was aware one of two Australian brothers killed by an Israeli air strike in Lebanon may have had links to Hezbollah before the proscribed terrorist organisation claimed him as one of their own.
Ali Bazzi, 30 and his 27-year-old brother Ibrahim were killed alongside the younger brother’s wife, Shourouk Hammoud, in the Southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil.
Late on Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed Ali Bazzi as one of their fighters, celebrating him as a “martyr”.
Addressing journalists in Melbourne on Thursday morning, Mr Dreyfus said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had overnight confirmed the deaths of two Australian citizens in an air strike in southern Lebanon.
“The Australian Embassy in Beirut stands ready to provide consular assistance to the family as required,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“We are aware of the announcement made by Hezbollah claiming links to one of the Australians killed. We are seeking to establish the facts. However, Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law.”
Asked whether Australia had been aware of any link between Ali Bazzi and Hezbollah before now, Mr Dreyfus said the government was investigating the issue.
“We are continuing to make inquiries, but Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law.”
Asked whether Australia had been aware of any link between Ali Bazzi and Hezbollah before now, Mr Dreyfus deflected, saying: “We are continuing to make inquiries, but Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law.”
Mr Dreyfus said there was daily military activity in southern Lebanon, including rocket and missile fire, as well as airstrikes, and a warning against travelling to the area had been in place since mid October.
“For Australians in Lebanon, we urge you to leave while commercial options remain available,” he said.
“In the context of the current conflict, Australia has consistently called for civilian lives to be protected, and we have consistently raised our concerns about the risk of this conflict spreading.
“It is why we have been working with countries who have influence in the region to prevent further escalation, and it is why we have been advising Australians not to travel to Lebanon.”
Mr Dreyfus said there had been examples in the past of Australians having had links to Hezbollah.
“One of the reasons why the Australian government has listed Hezbollah, in both its arms, as a terrorist organisation, is because of the potential links to Australia and Australians.”
Asked whether the brothers were dual citizens, the Attorney-General said authorities were “continuing to make inquiries”.
Asked to elaborate on the nature of the inquiries and what information was being sought, Mr Dreyfus said it was important that the Australian government be “as informed as possible when this sort of event happens”.
Mr Dreyfus said Australia had communicated with Israel following the airstrike, “but I’m not going to disclose those communications.”
He said any Australian fighting with Hezbollah was committing a very serious terrorist offence under the criminal code.
“There are very heavy penalties attached to committing that kind of offence, and I’d repeat because Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“It’s an offence for any Australian to provide financial assistance to that terrorist organization, to fight with that terrorist organization or to be associated with them.”
The Attorney-General said he was “not personally aware” of any Australians travelling to Lebanon to fight with Hezbollah in recent weeks.
“It’s very important that Australians not travel to Lebanon,” he said.
“The reason why the Australian government has listed all of this organisation, Hezbollah, and a number of other terrorist organisations as terrorist organisations is to provide a deterrent to Australians from giving their assistance, to joining with, let alone the fighting with terrorist organisations.”
Asked whether he would offer condolences to the family of the brothers, Mr Dreyfus said: “Of course I express my condolences to the family of the man who’s travelled to Lebanon. I say again, as I said in my opening statement, that full assistance of Australian consular officials in Beirut are available to them.”Article link: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/mark-dreyfus-silent-over-killed-australian-hezbollah-links/news-story/542c536058fba33a0ff404336764d395
Article source: 28 December 2023, The Australian, by Rachel Baxendale