Seventeen Yemeni Jews were airlifted to Israel in a covert operation.
Four of the Jews were flown directly from Yemen to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, Haaretz reported. The rest were taken clandestinely from Buenos Aires after being smuggled to the Argentinian capital by a group of Satmar hasidim in August 2011, living in the Satmar community there. The Satmars have been involved in smuggling Jews out of Yemen for several years, according to Haaretz.
Several of the Yemenis reunited with family members in Israel.
The operation — a coordinated effort among the Jewish Agency and the Israeli ministries for the interior, foreign affairs and immigration absorption — was prompted by growing concern for the safety of the Jews in Yemen, according to the Jewish Agency. Anti-Semitic violence has been a growing problem since the 2011 ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The airlift brings to 45 the number of Yemeni Jews who have been brought to Israel this year and 151 since 2009.
Fewer than 90 Jews remain in Yemen, with about half of them living in a guarded structure in the capital, Sa’ana, Haaretz reported.
The 17 Yemeni Jews will be housed in Jewish Agency immigration absorption centers in southern Israel.
Some 49,000 Yemeni Jews were brought to the nascent State of Israel in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50.