Australia, New Zealand PMs to visit Israel for Beersheba battle anniversary

Malcolm Turnbull, Bill English to attend ceremony in late October marking 100 years since victory that paved way for British Empire to take Palestine

Australian men and women reenacting the last cavalry charge that took place in the Battle of Beersheba during World War I. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Australian men and women reenacting the last cavalry charge that took place in the Battle of Beersheba during World War I. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand will visit Israel next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The 1917 attack on the Ottoman forces in the city, which was led by British general Edmund Allenby, enabled the British Empire to take control of southern Palestine after months of inconclusive fighting in Gaza and continue its advance towards Jerusalem.

A photo said to be of the charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade during the Battle of Beersheba on October 31, 2017. (Public domain, Australian War Memorial, Wikimedia Commons)

Mounted units of soldiers from both Australia and New Zealand played key roles in the fight for the city.

The ceremony will be held on October 31 at the Beersheba Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, where more than 1,000 commonwealth soldiers are buried, including the over 100 troops who died during the Battle of Beersheba.

The Foreign Ministry said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will arrive in the country on October 28, while New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English will land in Israel a day later.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, walks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, right, upon their arrival at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 (Jason Reed/Pool Photo via AP)

It did not say whether the two will hold meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or any other Israeli officials while in the country.

Netanyahu last met with Turnbull in February during his trip down under.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English speaks to supporters of his National Party at an event in Auckland on September 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Michael Bradley)

English’s visit comes after Israel restored full diplomatic ties with New Zealand in June after the two countries had a falling-out over a UN Security Council resolution condemning West Bank settlements.

New Zealand’s prime minister, whose conservative National Party came just short of winning a majority of seats last week in the country’s elections, is currently locked in “tense” negotiations with other parties in order to form a coalition.

AFP contributed to this report.

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