Five newborn babies born to Israeli couples using surrogate mothers in Nepal arrived in Israel on an emergency flight Monday, as the death toll from Saturday's earthquake there topped 4,100.
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Also Monday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein authorized surrogate mothers in advanced stages of pregnancy to make the trip from Nepal to Israel as well, as rescue workers struggled to help the victims of the worst earthquake to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years.
All the babies flown in Monday, including a set of twins, were healthy and did not require medical treatment in Israel.
"People are not aware of the extent of the destruction," said Israeli singer and musician Ohad Hitman, who was on the flight with his partner Ran Harush, their 2-year-old son Barry and their newborn, Eva.
"There are dozens more babies in tents that are living in untenable conditions. But the support we received from Israelis was amazing – whether online, when we are able to get online, or the help of Israeli trekkers who found blankets and water bottles," he said. "The most important thing was to keep the babies warm."
The Magen David Adom rescue service has determined that babies and children would be the first Israelis to be airlifted from Kathmandu.
"The decision about who would board the plane and who wouldn't was tough, but it was decided that children and babies would be first," said Magen David Adom director general Eli Bin.
In Israel, officials said they would hold off for now on any bureaucratic procedures connected to babies born to surrogate mothers from Nepal and to heavily pregnant surrogate mothers.
"At this stage, we have decided to hold off on all the procedures, even if it causes a problem with the Nepalese or Indian governments, so as to bring over the babies as soon as possible," outgoing Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday as he welcomed the families returning from Kathmandu. "We don't know what the conditions are there."
Dozens of Israeli couples are still waiting with their surrogates in Kathmandu, where the couples were in the process of completing the Israeli bureaucratic process allowing them to return to the country with their babies when the earthquake hit.
Nepal has become the prime country for Israeli surrogacy proceedings in recent years, with 26 babies born to Israeli couples using Nepalese surrogates in the past few weeks alone.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.