Israel to Let 300 Palestinians Return to West Bank From Libya

Netanyahu makes humanitarian gesture to Palestinians as foreigners from all over the world flee Libya; More than 12 countries send planes to help their citizens escape an increasingly unstable situation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel will allow 300 Palestinians in Libya to enter the Palestinian territories in the coming days.

"Because of the current violence in Libya I received a personal request from [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas ... that Israel allow a number of Palestinians to leave Libya and to enter the West Bank ... so Israel will enable 300 Palestinians to enter the West Bank," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, who was speaking alongside visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said the move was made as a humanitarian gesture because the Palestinians were under threat and because there was a "concern for their safety and their very lives".

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks brokered by the United States have ground to a complete halt after the Palestinians refused to return to the negotiating table unless Israel extended a moratorium on its settlement building.

Anti-Gadhafi protest in West Bank - Reuters - Feb 23, 2011
Reuters

Netanyahu said Israel's move was "a mark of our desire for good neighborliness and ... peace."

Meanwhile on Wednesday, foreigners fled the chaos in Libya by the thousands, with Americans and Turks climbing aboard ships, Europeans boarding evacuation flights and North Africans racing to border crossings in overcrowded vans.

More than a dozen countries – including Russia, China, Germany and Ukraine – sent planes in to help their citizens escape an increasingly unstable situation. Tripoli airport was overflowing with stranded passengers, and one said thousands more were sitting in the sun outside the airport, surrounded by luggage and children and blocked by security from entering.