Rescue operation from northern Ethiopia: on Thursday, 204 Israelis and Ethiopians who are eligible for immigration were rescued on four different flights from the cities of Gondar and Mount Dar in northern Ethiopia, after they came under siege in an area where severe clashes between armed militias and the Ethiopian security forces have taken place in recent days.
Last week, the Foreign Ministry issued a "travel advisory" for Israelis staying in Gondar, following "violent clashes between armed local groups and the federal security forces, which led to the blocking of the roads to and from Gondar and the closing of the airport."
The rescue operation became possible after a relative stabilization of the situation in Gondar. Buses transported the evacuees – 174 Israeli citizens and Ethiopians eligible for immigration – from several different points to the Gondar airport, which had recently opened, and from there they were flown to safety in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. At the same time, 30 Israelis were rescued from the city of Mount Dar and also taken to Addis Ababa.
A few days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in consultation with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, instructed the head of the National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi to lead the coordination of the rescue operation. The operation was carried out under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Jewish Agency. At the time, it was estimated that there were only about 50 Israelis in the area, but later the exact number became clear.
The Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem hadcontacted most of the Israeli citizens in the area of the cities of Gondar and Mount Dar in the last day. On Wednesday night they were instructed to reach meeting points in the cities for their rescue. For this purpose, the situation room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reinforced with Amharic-speaking diplomats, agency workers and soldiers.
At the meeting points, the Israelis boarded designated buses that were waiting for them and transferred them to the airport of Gondar and Mount Dar, where they boarded special flights that had been arranged in advance and arrived a short time ago in Addis Ababa. The Israelis who were rescued from the battle zone will stay in Addis Ababa until their decision regarding their continued stay in Ethiopia and return to Israel. After the rescue, it became known that a number of Israelis remained in areas that cannot be reached, and that efforts are being made to rescue them as well.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The State of Israel cares for its citizens wherever they are. In the last few days, citizens of Israel and those eligible for aliyah from Ethiopia entered into distress in the battle zones. I ordered them to be taken out of there.”
"I want to thank the National Security Headquarters, the people of the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the people of the Jewish Agency – for quick action, quiet and above all success. The people are now on their way from Gondar and Mount Dar and from there they will arrive in the State of Israel. We will receive them here with warmth and greetings. Welcome to the State of Israel."
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen added: "The State of Israel will not stand by and will not leave a single Israeli behind. This is the result of successful cooperation and close coordination with the Prime Minister's Office, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Agency. I am proud of the people of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia for their quick and high-quality activities. As we have proven in the past and in this event as well, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to act and assist in all possible ways and channels for every Israeli in the world who needs help."
On Tuesday, Cohen held a situation assessment regarding the Israelis and those entitled to aliyah besieged in Gondar, and yesterday he ordered officials to examine the possibility of evacuation to Addis Ababa; In the end, that plan came to fruition.
Asher Seyoum from Kiryat Malachi, who together with Shay Tronhc managed the WhatsApp group to locate the Israelis, explains that: "We decided to open a WhatsApp group and help with what we have in order to make things more accurate because the numbers did not come together. We saw that all the families were worried. After we opened the group, the numbers increased. We also sent locations, we prepared a table with ID numbers, the location of the hotel and even what their health status is. Unfortunately, there are some we were unable to reach, but we reached the central mass."
He added that: "Just a month ago I was in Ethiopia in the Gondar area. There is a sense of insecurity on the street, you stay where you are and feel that something is happening. I decided to take action because I understood what the Israelis who are there are going through. Some of them were under fire and they ran out of food, and we knew that if we didn't do something, there would be Israelis who would be slaughtered. If we didn't shout, the government wouldn't act. Big thumbs up to the government for this move."
Initially, the Defense and Foreign ministries examined the possibility of sending a plance from the Israeli Air Force, but on Wednesday, the Ethiopian government announced that it had removed the armed militias after several days of heavy clashes, and announced a curfew in six major cities in the Amhara National Regional State, including the capital, Mount Dar. "Today there is complete silence in the city, no one moves in the city," according to a resident of the capital. "The army is going door to door looking for suspects."
Flights to the district resumed Wednesday, after Ethiopian Airlines announced the end of the short suspension of operations in Mount Dar and Gondar.
The Ethiopian government, headed by Abiy Ahmed, announced last week, after the fighting began, a state of emergency for six months in Amhara - only nine months after the end of the war that took place in the neighboring Tigray province. Doctors in hospitals in the area said that dozens of civilians were killed or injured in the clashes.
Amhara militias did indeed fight alongside government forces in battles in Tigray, but at the beginning of the year tensions developed after the government's decision to disband armed groups throughout Ethiopia. This step led to a protest from nationalists in Amhara, who said it would weaken the province's ability to defend itself.
A month ago , the second part of Operation Tzur Israel was completed, with the arrival in Israel of about 130 new immigrants from Ethiopia. During the operation, about 5,000 immigrants made aliya from Ethiopia, of which about 70% were young people under the age of 35.
At the same time, Wudoo Adebabayi, a 79-year-old resident of Rishon Lezion, was kidnapped in Ethiopia. The Foreign Ministry stopped handling the case due to suspicions that Adebabayi staged his own kidnapping , but the family insisted that Adebabayi was kidnapped - and in the end he was rescued last month by a special force of the Ethiopian army, after a chase that included a gunfight with the kidnappers.
"The State of Israel is measured in moments of emergency and distress and the ability to rescue Israelis from life-threatening situations from anywhere in the world," said former minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who came to Israel from Ethiopia when she was three-years-old. "I am very happy that we were able to rescue Israelis and those entitled to make aliyah who were under fire and in immediate danger. The government must not stop the operations until the last of the Israelis and those entitled to aliyah arrive in Israel safely."