Israel evacuates more than 200 people from unrest in Ethiopia

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Israel on Thursday evacuated more than 200 of its nationals or people eligible for citizenship from a violence wracked region of Ethiopia, the prime minister’s office said.

Ethiopia’s northern region of Amhara has been rocked by deadly violence, just months after the end of a devastating two-year war in the neighboring Tigray region.

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At least 204 people, the majority Israelis as well as some eligible for Israeli citizenship, were rescued from Amhara, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

“These people were on their way from Gondar and Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa and from there they will arrive in Israel,” Netanyahu said in a separate video statement.

Six major Ethiopian cities have been hit by violence in Amhara, including the regional capital Bahir Dar, Gondar, and the holy city of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On Wednesday, the Ethiopian government said major cities in Amhara had been “freed” after days of fighting between army troops and militia fighters.

There has been no official casualty toll from the unrest, but hospital doctors in two of the affected cities told AFP that many civilians had been killed or injured.

Access to Amhara is restricted to journalists and it is not possible to independently ascertain the situation on the ground.

The Ethiopian government last week declared a six-month state of emergency in Amhara after the clashes erupted.

Tensions have been rising since April when the federal government announced it was dismantling regional forces across Ethiopia, triggering protests by Amhara nationalists who said the move would weaken their region.

The Israeli government had given the green light in 2021 for the “immediate” immigration of 3,000 Ethiopians, the majority of them still residing in Gondar, the second biggest city in Amhara.

A small Jewish community exists in Ethiopia, though most were brought to Israel in the 1980s and early 1990s, sometimes by extraordinary means. The covert mission “Operation Solomon” airlifted some 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel over 36 hours in 1991.

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