JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel has allowed eight Palestinian families expelled from Libya to enter the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin allowed their entrance as a humanitarian gesture in answer to a direct plea from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, the report said.

Libya has expelled more than 1,000 Palestinians since September. Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi has denied the expulsions are deportations, saying he is trying to help Palestinians return to their homeland.

Most expelled Palestinians lacked travel documents to entire other countries, leaving them stranded in a wretched limbo on the border. Observers believe the expulsions were Gadhafi's way of underlining his contention that the Israel-PLO peace process is a fraud that fails to take into account Palestinians who fled to other countries when Israel was created in 1948.

About 650 Palestinians returned to Libya this week, indicating Gadhafi may be reversing his policy, which has been criticized by other Arab countries.

Israel's decision to allow the eight families to enter was announced at a meeting between Israeli Maj. Oren Shahor and the Palestinian Authority's director of civilian affairs, Jamil Tarifi.

Israel controls all the international border crossings into its territory and into the Palestinian self-rule areas. It has informed the Palestinians it will prohibit more deportees from entering the autonomous areas.