Yemen minister says fate of country’s last 50 Jews unknown
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Yemen minister says fate of country’s last 50 Jews unknown

Moammer al-Iryani says Houthi rebels, who control capital Sana'a, are engaged in ethnic cleansing which includes seeking to rid Yemen of all Jews

In this photo taken on April 8, 2009, Jewish Yemeni boys sit behind the driver of a minibus as they travel back to the town of Raydah, after a morning of Hebrew classes in the nearby village of Kharif, Yemen photo credit: AP/Hamza Hendawi
In this photo taken on April 8, 2009, Jewish Yemeni boys sit behind the driver of a minibus as they travel back to the town of Raydah, after a morning of Hebrew classes in the nearby village of Kharif, Yemen photo credit: AP/Hamza Hendawi

Yemen’s information minister said his government is unaware of the fate of the country’s few dozen remaining Jews, most of whom reside in the Houthi rebel group-controlled capital of Sana’a, Israel Radio reported.

Speaking to an Israel Radio reporter on the sidelines of a conference on the civil war in Yemen in Paris, Moammer al-Iryani also said Saturday that the Houthis view the tiny remaining Jewish population as an enemy and are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that includes ridding Yemen of its Jewish community.

Approximately 50 Jews are believed to remain in Yemen, 40 of them living in Sana’a in a compound adjacent to the American Embassy. Despite the ongoing civil war, they have refused to leave the country.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who took control of large parts of the country in an offensive beginning in 2015 alongside forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have long incited against Jews and Israel. The group’s slogan is: “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam. Allahu Akbar.”

Al-Iryani said that the loss of the vast majority of the country’s Jewish population was a blow to Yemen’s heritage and culture and that the Yemeni government hopes to reestablish a relationship with the Yemenite Jewish community that left the country, Israel Radio reported.

Houthi Shiite fighters wearing army uniforms ride on a pickup truck as they guard a street during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen, January 23, 2015. Their sign reads 'death to Israel, cursed be the Jews' (photo credit: AP/Hani Mohammed)
Houthi Shiite fighters wearing army uniforms ride on a pickup truck as they guard a street during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen, January 23, 2015. Their sign reads ‘Death to Israel, cursed be the Jews.’ (AP/Hani Mohammed)

In March 2016, 17 Yemenite Jews were brought to Israel in a covert operation by the Jewish Agency for Israel and US State Department as part of a decades-long “historic mission” to “rescue” the Jews of the country.

The group comprised the final batch of approximately 200 Yemenite Jews brought to Israel by the Jewish Agency in recent years, the organization said. Similar initiatives in recent years have helped bring the last few remaining members of the community to Israel as the country descended into civil war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds an 500 hundred-year-old Torah scroll as he poses for a picture with some of the Yemenite Jews who were brought to Israel as part of a secret rescue operation, at the Knesset on March 21, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds an 500 hundred-year-old Torah scroll as he poses for a picture with some of the Yemenite Jews who were brought to Israel as part of a secret rescue operation, at the Knesset on March 21, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Saudi Arabia and several of its Sunni Arab allies launched an intervention in March 2015 to support President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies seized control of large parts of Yemen including the capital Sana’a.

The United Nations says more than 7,700 people have been killed over the past two years in Yemen, which also faces a serious risk of famine this year.

Some 49,000 Yemeni Jews were brought to the nascent State of Israel in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50.

AFP contributed to this report.

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