Israel Just 'Rescued' 19 Jews From Yemen in a Secret Mission

Israeli authorities have been assisting Yemenite Jews to relocate to Israel since the 1940s. With the arrival of 19 more on Sunday, there are now just 50 Jews left in the war-torn Gulf state.
March 21, 2016, 1:12pm
Un yemení judío acogido en Israel en 2013. (Imagen por Abir Sultan/EPA)

Some of the last Jews living in conflict-racked Yemen have been brought to Israel, after a secret assignment by Israeli authorities.

Israel's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that 19 Yemenite Jews had arrived in the country on Sunday after a "complex covert operation" coordinated by the Jewish Agency for Israel — the body responsible for facilitating emigration to Israel.

Just 50 Yemenite Jews now remain in the country, having rejected resettlement offers from Israel. The majority of those left live in a compound next to the US Embassy in the capital city Sanaa.

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Among the new arrivals, five had been living in Sanaa, while the remaining 14 had been part of a community in the nearby city of Raydah, whose rabbi arrived in Israel on Sunday carrying a 500-year old Torah scroll with him.

According to a statement prepared by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the new arrivals mark the end of a mission to facilitate the resettlement of Yemeni Jews

"This chapter in the history of one of the world's oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry's unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel," said Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in the statement.

More than 51,000 Yemenite Jews have resettled in Israel since its creation in 1948, with more than 50,000 arriving between 1949 and 1950 as part of an effort known as Operation Magic Carpet. Some 200 have been resettled in recent years amid growing civil strife since popular uprisings began in 2012.

Yemen has been engulfed in violence since September 2014, when Houthi rebels — who have complained of bearing the brunt of government repression since 2012 — overran Sanaa and forced the government to flee south.

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A Saudi-dominated coalition has been bombarding Houthi positions throughout the country since March 2015, with widespread reports of war crimes being committed, including attacks on hospitals and other civilian facilities.

However, the rebels — whose motto is "God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam" — still control large amounts of territory, including both Sanaa and Raydah.

Sunni Muslim jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State have gained ground in southern Yemen since the coalition began the bombings.

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