Israel to Allow Egyptian Refugees Fleeing Iraq to Cross Through Eilat

Israel will allow thousands of Egyptians fleeing Iraq and Kuwait to cross its territory on their way home, Israel Television reported Monday night.

Foreign Minister David Levy granted permission after he received a personal request on the matter from the Egyptian ambassador, Mohammed Basiouny, who flew immediately to Cairo with Israel’s favorable response, Israel Television said.

Levy cited humanitarian considerations and pointed out that the refugees were nationals of a “friendly state” who were fleeing from “an oppressive dictator.”

An estimated 1 million Egyptian laborers and others were in Iraq and Kuwait, both major oil producing states, when the Iraqis invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2 and later annexed it, precipitating an international crisis.

The Egyptians and nationals of other Arab countries have been allowed by the Iraqis to leave, but American and European nationals are being detained against their will. In some cases, they reportedly have been relocated to strategic installations, to serve as “human shields.”

The exact number of Egyptians presently in Aqaba, the Jordanian Red Sea port adjacent to Eilat, is not known. Most are believed penniless, having had to leave their money and possessions behind. They arrived there after a long, exhausting and, in some cases, dangerous trek across Jordan from Kuwait and Iraq.

Egypt does not have sufficient shipping to pick them up at Aqaba. The refugees are therefore expected to cross into Israeli territory near Eilat and through the Taba border checkpoint into Egypt, where presumably buses will pick them up for the journey across Sinai.

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