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Immigrants from India are the largest ethnic group of newcomers living in the Gaza Strip, according to the Absorption Ministry.

The group, numbering 146, belongs to the Bnei Menashe, from eastern India, who see themselves as descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Bnei Menashe arrived here in recent years after gaining special permission from the Interior Ministry through the recently disbanded Amishav association, which seeks out groups of people who are said to have Israelite antecedents.

Recently, 30 of the Bnei Menashe, most of who live in Neveh Dekalim, asked to move to Givat Avni, a community in the lower Galilee, not far from the biblical tribal territory of Menashe.

According to Absorption Ministry statistics, Gaza is also home to 144 immigrants from France and 25 immigrants from the U.S. There are 220 immigrants from the former Soviet Union living in areas to be evacuated, mainly in the northern West Bank. A total of 620 people who came to live in Israel since 1989 are living in areas to be evacuated, 488 in the Gaza Strip and 137 in the northern West Bank.

The Absorption Ministry is launching today a hotline for immigrants living in settlements scheduled for evacuation, which they can call to speak to Disengagement Administration personnel through interpreters. The number is (03) 973-3333 and it is available between 2:00 - 6:00 pm.