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1985: Israel ends major Ethiopian rescue mission
Israel has airlifted thousands of Jewish Ethiopian refugees out of Sudan, it has emerged.

Operation Moses, which has been taking place in secret since 21 November 1984, has been suspended since news of the covert airlift became public.

Press leaks have forced the Israeli Government to admit that about 8,000 Ethiopians fleeing famine-struck Ethiopia have now arrived in Israel.

The Arab world has been angered by Khartoum's decision to co-operate with Israel and allow charter planes to fly from Sudan - which does not recognise the country.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, has insisted that Operation Moses will continue.

Descendants

Jewish people from Ethiopia are said to be able to trace their lineage back almost 3,000 years and may be the descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

They are a minority in Ethiopia where the major religions are Christianity and Islam.

The Jewish community has suffered discrimination, particularly in recent years under Marxist President Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam who prohibited the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew.

The operation began following reports last September that more Jewish refugees from Ethiopia were arriving in Sudan, and many were dying from malnutrition.

Some of them, who now live in Israel, claim that details of Operation Moses was leaked by Israelis who have been alarmed at the number of Jewish refugees from Ethiopia arriving in the country.

Until recently they were not given Jewish status and public opinion in Israel on the government's motives for launching Operation Moses are mixed.

Some believe its reasons are humanitarian, but others think the refugees from Ethiopia are simply the latest immigrants to settle in Israel and raise the numbers now living there.

There are now between 10,000 and 15,000 Jewish people from Ethiopia living in Israel.

Estimates suggest there is still a similar figure living in famine-hit villages in the Ethiopian province of Gondar and 1,000 in refugee camps in Sudan.

Jewish people from Ethiopia who live in Israel claim the publicity surrounding the operation has endangered the safety of refugees in Sudan.

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Jewish Ethiopians on board a plane during Operation Solomon - 1991
Six years later an even bigger operation was launched called Operation Solomon



In Context
It is estimated that around 4,000 Jewish people from Ethiopia died making the journey by foot to Sudan.

The US completed the airlift when it launched Operation Joshua in the same year.

In 1991, Israel launched Operation Solomon and airlifted 15,000 Ethiopian Jewish people.

There are now around 80,000 Jewish people from Ethiopia living in Israel, but they have faced difficulties assimilating into society.

According to a government report in 1999, many cannot write Hebrew and the unemployment rate among the Ethiopian community in Israel is at least three times the national average.

Coming from a subsistence economy some found it hard to find work in an industrialised country.

But nearly all young Ethiopian males have been assimilated into the army during national service.

An independent report has said that Jewish people from Ethiopia were "no longer viewed as a curiosity, but as a familiar part of Israel's ethnic mosaic".

In January 2004, the Israeli government announced that it would speed up the removal of 18,000 Jewish people still living in Ethiopia.

The Falasha Mura community, as they are known, say they are the last remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia and have long been persecuted for their beliefs.

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