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Ethiopia Discussing Direct Flights to Bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel

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The Ethiopian government is discussing an agreement between El Al and Ethiopia’s national air carrier to fly Ethiopian Jews directly to Israel.

Kassa Kabede, a ranking Ethiopian official now visiting Israel, told a news conference here Friday that his government considers the reunification of families to be among the highest humane endeavors.

Kabede, a special adviser to President Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, said he suggested to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens that their countries establish joint teams of social workers to locate family members and facilitate unification.

Ethiopia was one of the many black African nations that broke diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The two countries resumed ties only last year.

In the winter of 1984-85, some 10,000 Ethiopian Jews were secretly air-lifted to Israel from Khartoum in neighboring Sudan by a roundabout route.

The clandestine movement, known as “Operation Moses,” was halted by the Sudanese authorities after it was leaked to the news media.

Recently, Jewish immigration from Ethiopia has increased, but figures have not been made public. A Jewish Agency official said it was about 100 a month.

Israel has hotly denied widespread reports that it provided Ethiopia with cluster bombs to use against Eritrean separatist rebels in exchange for allowing Jews to emigrate.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded Sunday at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, but caused no injuries to the recently arrived Israeli ambassador and his staff, who have taken up temporary domicile in the hotel.

Meir Yoffe, the recently appointed Israeli envoy, said there is no information to suggest that the explosion was directed at him or his staff.

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