November 02, 2009 6:01 AM
Russia says it is evacuating about 300 people from Gaza Friday as Israel continues its offensive on the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.
The official RIA-Novosti news agency reported that 160 of the evacuees are Russian, while the rest are from other former Soviet states.
Russian officials say they are working with the Israeli military, Palestinian officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross carry out the evacuation.
Thursday, Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, despite international concerns about a rising civilian death toll. She rejected a French call for a 48-hour cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, telling reporters that Israel keeps the humanitarian situation "completely as it should be," by distinguishing between soldiers and civilians.
She also said Israel has increased shipments of humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip in recent days.
Health officials in Gaza say at least 400 people have been killed during Israel's six-day assault on Hamas. The United Nations estimates that about one-quarter of those killed were civilians.
World leaders have voiced concern about the situation in Gaza. A blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt has left one-point-five million Gazans with little food or supplies.
Israel is allowing convoys of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and is letting some Palestinians into Israel for medical treatment.
Israel and Egypt sealed their borders with Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory from the more moderate Palestinian faction Fatah in 2007.