JERUSALEM (May. 28)
The Israeli officials who stayed behind in Ethiopia are reported to be safe despite the chaos in Addis Ababa, which fell to invading rebel forces at dawn Tuesday.
All Israelis in the capital have found shelter in hideouts prepared ahead of time, Asher Naim, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, told Israel Radio on Tuesday.
According to Naim, some 350 Ethiopian Jews who were unable to make it to the airport on time to be airlifted last weekend to Israel were also evacuated to hideouts.
The Israeli Embassy reportedly is taking care of their needs, including providing physical protection.
Naim said that fierce battles began early Tuesday morning near the presidential residence, not far from the embassy. The rebels reportedly occupied the palace, the parliament and the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity.
A senior Foreign Ministry official here said Tuesday that Israel is “looking forward” to establishing cordial working relationships, including technological cooperation, with the evolving new government in Ethiopia.
Haim Divon, assistant director general for Africa, said in an interview with Israel Radio’s English-language service that he hoped the rebel organizations are convinced by now that “Israel did not supply any arms” to the regime of former President Mengistu Haile Mariam, who fled the country May 21.
ETHIOPIAN OFFICIALS IN ISRAEL
Israel Television disclosed Tuesday evening that Mengistu’s half-brother, Kassa Kabede, is now in Israel, having arrived on one of the Operation Solomon flights.
Kabede, who was educated in Israel and is fluent in Hebrew, was actively involved in diplomatic negotiations between the Mengistu regime and Israel.
But government sources here stressed that Israel has not offered wholesale asylum to officials of the Mengistu regime.
Only Kabede and one other Ethiopian official involved in the Jewish rescue operation have been granted entry.
Divon of the Foreign Ministry said there should be no basis for hostility or mistrust between the insurgents and Israel.
He said Israel had not yet had an opportunity to make direct contact with the rebel organizations, but he indicated Israel had signaled its good will through the Americans.
Divon played down fears here that if the northeastern province of Eritrea gains independence, it might cede control over the Red Sea coastline to Arab powers, thereby threatening Israeli strategic interests.
He said there is no certainty at this time that Eritrea will become an independent state. “I am not so sure that the other groups would be happy with that development,” he said.