State of emergency: 13 Israelis rescued in Ethiopia

Two private organizations supported by local and Israeli officials spirited away 20 foreigners from an area of internal fighting in the Amhara region.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two private organizations supported by local and Israeli officials spirited away 20 foreigners, including 13 Israelis, from an area of fighting between government and anti-government forces in Ethiopia Monday.

Personnel from the PassportCard international insurance and Magnus International Search & Rescue companies amassed intelligence information, mapped the danger areas, and received a briefing from the Israeli consulate in Addis Ababa and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after clashes began a week ago between the FANO militia and the Ethiopian army in the Amhara region.

In the morning, aided by locals, they executed the rescue operation, taking the foreigners from the city of Dabarak to the city of Shire in the safer Tigray region. The plan is for the group to continue on to Addis Ababa by plane, and from there they can leave the country if they wish to do so.

The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on Saturday after the local FANO forces clashed with the national army, capturing several towns as well as a small airport.

Heavy fighting was reported around the city of Gondar, one of the centers where prospective immigrants to Israel have waited for years to be reunited with their Jewish relatives already in the country. There are many Israelis there as a result, helping to prepare the Ethiopians for their new lives as the slow bureaucratic process grinds on.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer said on Sunday that the Israeli government was “closely monitoring developments and are in constant coordination with relevant bodies. The safety and security of all, especially our nationals in the region, are of paramount importance. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and adhere to safety recommendations.”

The Amhara militia was an ally of the federal army in the two-year civil war with Tigray separatists that ended in a truce in November. A diplomatic source told Reuters that the immediate cause of the current clashes was the national military’s attempt to expel FANO forces from several areas.

The government had declared in April that there should be only one centralized Ethiopian army and that it would disarm all regional special forces, but FANO objected to the plan.