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Israel to evacuate families of diplomats from Ethiopia, steps up travel warning

Foreign Ministry raises severity of advisory after African country declares state of emergency amid intensifying fighting between army and Tigray insurgents

A fighter loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) mans a guard post on the outskirts of the town of Hawzen in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on May 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
A fighter loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) mans a guard post on the outskirts of the town of Hawzen in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on May 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Amid an escalating civil war in Ethiopia, Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday announced it would begin evacuating the families of its diplomats stationed in the African country.

The Israeli diplomats themselves will continue to work at the Addis Ababa embassy, ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said.

The ministry on Saturday also announced an updated travel warning for Ethiopia, after an advisory to avoid non-essential trips was issued on Wednesday, which followed a state of emergency announcement from the African country.

Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday, a year into the civil war, and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighborhoods amid fears that Tigrayan rebels were heading for the capital.

Israel’s Saturday advisory recommended citizens planning to visit Ethiopia to cancel their trip, and for those already there to leave immediately. On Wednesday, the advisory had only urged Israelis to refrain from going to conflict zones, and remain vigilant around the capital.

The advisories came as the fighting between the Ethiopian government and rebels intensified following a year of war that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

A destroyed tank is seen by the side of the road south of Humera in western Tigray, then annexed by the Amhara region, in Ethiopia, on May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Tigray forces seized key cities in recent days and linked up with another armed group, leading the government of Africa’s second-most populous country to declare a national state of emergency with sweeping detention powers.

On Wednesday, President Isaac Herzog urged the swift extraction of any remaining Ethiopian Jews waiting to immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia.

“The longings of the past are in large part the foundation of this holy day, but it is important that we not neglect for a moment our longings for the future,” Herzog said at a ceremony in Jerusalem marking the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd. “Thousands are still waiting to make aliyah to Israel, and some of them are threatened and in a worrying situation. We must continue to act bring them over to Israel quickly.”

There are thought to be 7,000 to 12,000 Ethiopians waiting to move to Israel, many of whom live in the Tigray region, the heart of the conflict. Others, who left their villages years ago, eke out livings near Gondar and Addis Ababa, where the main Jewish communities are located.

AP contributed to this report.

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