Case by case

Ben-Hillel said that under the agreement with the UN, the new arrivals will not be classified as refugees, adding that Israel does not want the arrangement to be seen as a precedent, but will examine similar future requests on a case-by-case basis.

She did not say when the refugees would arrive and could not confirm Haaretz's report that Israel had rejected an additional request for 10 other Palestinians who fled Iraq to enter the Gaza Strip.

Riad Malki, the Palestinian information minister, applauded the Israeli decision and called for Israel to permit the entry into Palestinian areas of more emigrants from Iraq in the future.

He said: "We demand the entry for all Palestinians from Iraq because of the dangers they live under. This is a great accomplishment, and symbolic."

Millions displaced

Since the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, about two million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring Syria and Jordan.

An equal number are displaced within Iraq.

Malki said about 18,000 Palestinians are among the Iraq residents who fled their homes due to the fighting.

Haaretz said the Palestinian community in Iraq had been targeted by Shias in the years since Saddam Hussein's fall.

Fighters injured

In a separate development, an Israeli aircraft attacked a car carrying Palestinian fighters on Monday, wounding two members of Islamic Jihad and the Gaza commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

Islamic Jihad said two other men in the vehicle escaped unscathed, one from Al-Aqsa and the other from Islamic Jihad.

Medical staff said two civilian passersby were injured in the raid, about 10km south of Gaza City.

The Israeli military confirmed carrying out an assault, but did not give details of the target, other than to say the attack was part of operations against what it called "terrorist activity".