In Ehud Barak's first major act as defense minister, the new Labor head ordered Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishal on Wednesday morning to begin immediately evacuating all Palestinians in need of urgent medical care from the Palestinian side of the Erez Crossing. Magen David Adom ambulances were standing by at the crossing to carry out the evacuations, in conjunction with the Red Cross and the IDF. No numbers were specified, and specific guidelines for determining urgency were not released. But shortly after the order was issued, a 17-year-old boy with leukemia was on his way through the passage, said Shadi Yassin, a military liaison official.
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Saeb Erekat, a confidant of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel had agreed to transfer 55 people to Israeli hospitals. Israeli authorities were not immediately available for comment on this number.
Barak's move quickly came under fire by MK Nissan Slomiansky (National Religious Party) who said that the move was dangerous. Among those being evacuated are "yesterday's supporters of terror and the potential terrorists of tomorrow," said Slomiansky.
Slomiansky added that he was curious as to why Arab states weren't providing humanitarian aid of the Palestinian refugees.
Meanwhile, Israel is allowing all foreign nationals to leave Hamas-controlled Gaza and enter Israel, an IDF spokesman said.
Military spokesman Shlomo Dror said any foreign national wishing to leave Gaza was allowed to do so in coordination with their embassy.
At midday Wednesday, buses brought some 90 Ukrainians from Gaza into Israel, and more foreigners were expected to enter later in the day, military spokesman Shadi Yassin said.
More than 100 foreigners have left Gaza since Hamas seized full control there last week, Dror said. He did not specify their nationalities.
On Monday, the Russian government said it planned to evacuate 120 Russian nationals from Gaza, according to a report from the Interfax news agency. The report said the Russians were mostly women married to Palestinian men.
Barak's move came after the High Court of Justice instructed the State Attorney's Office on Tuesday night to do "everything Israel can do to save human life," following a petition submitted by "Doctors for Human Rights" and "Gisha" that Erez Crossing be opened immediately to allow sick and wounded Gazans into Israel.
On Tuesday, hoping to prevent a humanitarian crisis and to end the standoff at the Erez Crossing, defense officials revealed that Israel had asked Egypt to evacuate some 100 Palestinian women and children holed up at the border terminal.
An estimated 200 Palestinians have been stranded for days at the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel, fleeing the Hamas forces that took over Gaza last week but unable to enter Israel.
Barak replaced Amir Peretz on Tuesday as defense minister.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.