Yemeni Jews flown to Israel in covert operation

Secret mission retrieves 19 of Yemen’s last remaining Jews to Israel as about 50 people choose to stay behind.

Salman Ichia, one of 19 Jews from Yemen, who were brought to Israel by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel, is greeted by a realative at an absorption center in Beersheba, Israel
Officials say the latest arrivals to Israel 'brought the mission to its conclusion' [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Some of Yemen’s last remaining Jews have been airlifted to Israel after a “covert operation” retrieved them from the war-torn country.

The Jewish Agency, which helps to organise the immigration of Jews to Israel, said on Monday that 19 people had landed in Israel from Yemen over the past few days.

“Nineteen individuals arrived in Israel in recent days, including 14 from the town of Raydah and a family of five from Sanaa,” the agency said in a statement.


It declined to provide details of the operation, but a spokesman told the AFP news agency that it took several months to prepare.

Seventeen of those brought to Israel, including a rabbi carrying a 500-year-old Torah scroll, arrived on Sunday night, while the other two arrived a few days earlier.

The agency said that around 50 Jews had decided to stay in Yemen, most of whom live in a compound near the US embassy in the capital, Sanaa, under Yemeni government protection.

Hundreds of Jews have arrived in Israel from Yemen in recent years, but the latest arrivals had “brought the mission to its conclusion”, Natan Sharansky, the head of the agency, said.

Sanaa and the town of Raydah to its north are both controlled by Houthi fighters who are battling loyalists of the internationally recognised government and its supporters in a Saudi-led coalition.

Other operations have transferred Jewish populations from Ethiopia and, more covertly, from Arab or Muslim states with which Israel has no formal relations. 

READ MORE: Israel’s cancelled plan on Ethiopian Jews prompts rally

On Sunday, hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis marched in Jerusalem after the Israeli government cancelled plans to allow their relatives to emigrate from the African nation, calling the move discrimination.

Police and organisers estimated the crowd at up to 2,000 for Sunday’s march, which ended outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Source: News Agencies