SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Wednesday he had called Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to urge him to open an independent inquiry into the deadly raid on an aid convoy bound for Gaza.
At least nine people were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the ships early Monday. An Australian man was shot during the incident, while an Australian photographer was reportedly hit with a stun gun.
The Australian shot in the incident remained in hospital Wednesday while four other Australians were in the process of being deported, Australia's ABC broadcaster reported.
Rudd said he had told Prime Minister Netanyahu an inquiry was needed "so that all facts can be established and an informed judgement made about the events surrounding the incident".
"I set out the framework within which Australia views this tragedy... and reflected Australia's deep concerns over the recent military operation off Gaza," Rudd told parliament.
"I indicated the Australian government was deeply concerned at the loss of life and injuries that have occurred as part of the IDF (Israel Defence Force) operation."
Rudd's comments came amid reports that Kate Geraghty, a photographer with the Sydney Morning Herald, may have been hit with a stun gun by Israeli forces.
On its website, the newspaper said Geraghty had told Australian consular officials she had been hit in the upper arm with what she believed to be a Taser and had subsequently suffered a minor burn and felt nauseous.
The photographer, together with Herald journalist Paul McGeough, was held in Israeli detention after being arrested while covering the convoy.
Speaking on ABC radio, Palestinian activist Huwaida Arraf said she was on the same boat as Geraghty during the raid.
"I did not see her being Tasered, but when we were all finally gathered into a room and they had subdued all of us and taken over the boat she did show us her wound on her arm and she said that she wasn't feeling well and that she was hurt," Arraf said.
Geraghty reportedly saw a doctor but did not require treatment and is in good health.
Geraghty, McGeough and two other Australians were taken by bus to Tel Aviv airport for deportation on Wednesday, ABC quoted lawyer Ibn Bari Shahda as saying.
However Australian Ahmad Luqman, 20, remained in hospital in Tel Aviv after he was shot in the leg and may be discharged at the weekend. His wife was among the four Australians deported, Australian news agency AAP reported.
Rudd's call to Netanyahu comes after Australia last month expelled an Israeli embassy official over the alleged falsification of Australian passports for Israeli agents who assassinated a Hamas militant in Dubai.
Rudd said while Canberra recognised the unique security challenges facing Israel, more needed to be done to ensure a continuing supply of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. He said Australia would continue to speak frankly with Israel.
"We are friends; at times, however, the role of friends is to speak plainly and that is what Australia has done in relation to this matter," he said.
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