Middle East TimesJune 20, 2007
EREZ BORDER CROSSING, Gaza Strip -- A flood of grim-faced East European women and bewildered children was Wednesday being evacuated from the Gaza Strip, packed into buses and desperately fleeing the Hamas-run territory.
Ninety Ukrainians were rushed through the Erez border crossing to the safety of Israel, with approximately 140 Russian citizens scheduled to follow immediately, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Shady Yassin said.
"Ninety people with Ukrainian citizenship have already left. Right now we're preparing to evacuate approximately 140 Russian citizens from the Gaza Strip. It should be starting right now," he said by telephone.
The mainly women and children, pale faced, plainly dressed, and visibly strained just days after Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory in a deadly takeover, sat in buses and looked bleakly through the window.
Yassin said that the flight was coordinated by the relevant embassies, the Israeli foreign ministry, and the civil administration in the Gaza Strip, and that Ukrainian embassy representatives had been waiting to receive them at Erez.
"Every foreigner in the Gaza Strip can come out whenever he likes. The Erez crossing is open for foreigners and for foreign reporters to go and come in."
The head of the Romanian representative office to the Palestinian Authority said that around 60 to 70 Romanian women who married Palestinian sweethearts who studied in Romania, and their children, were also desperate to leave.
"I'm speaking about a lot of women and of course their children. We hope, at their request, to do something tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to help them get out, in fact to run away from Gaza," Marian Stefan said. "In the past, there were a lot of scholarships for young Palestinians, who were educated there [in Romania] and at the same time they married and they returned to Palestine with wives.
"They are very concerned. They want to get out as soon as possible," Stefan said, adding that their return to Romania would be without their husbands.
The Russian Itar-Tass news agency reported Sunday that the foreign ministry in Moscow had given the Israeli authorities the names of 138 Russians who wanted to be evacuated from the Palestinian territories.