Australia pledges $3.5 million aid to Gaza victims

Australia called Thursday for peace in Gaza and promised 5 million Australian dollars ($3.5 million) in humanitarian aid to Palestinians caught in the current violence there. "The Australian government is gravely concerned by the escalating violence," acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement. "Australia is deeply saddened by the resultant, tragic loss of life in recent days, and strongly condemns the firing of rockets and mortars into southern Israel by Hamas and other militant groups," said Gillard, who is acting prime minister while Kevin Rudd is on vacation. "As part of its commitment to help support people caught up in the conflict, the Australian government will make an immediate commitment of AU$5 million in additional assistance to the people of the Gaza Strip and stands ready to consider further assistance in the future," Gillard said.