Some of the last remaining members of Yemen's Jewish community have been airlifted to safety in Israel in a secret escape from the country orchestrated by the US State Department and Jewish charity the Jewish Agency.
Some 19 Jewish people were flown from Yemen to Israel as part of the operation, AFP has reported. Yemen has been plagued by a bloody civil war for more than a year as Yemenite government forces battle to retake control of key towns and cities from Houthi rebels backed by Iran.
Civilian casualties in the gulf nation have increased following a Saudi-led military intervention to prop up government forces. More than 6,200 people have been killed in Yemen over the last year, according to the the World Health Organization, with the UN warning of an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
The Times of Israel reported that the group of 17 Yemenite Jews, with two others having arrived earlier, were drawn from the town of Raydah and the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The group is the most recent of 200 Jews to be brought from Yemen in recent years. Israel's Channel 2 has reported that US officials were instrumental in the removal of the individuals.
The Jewish Agency, a charity that works to bring endangered Jews to Israel, said in a statement that the group included a rabbi from Raydah who carried with a him a Torah scroll believed to be between 500 and 600 years old.
"This is a very significant moment in the history of the State of Israel and for immigration to Israel," the charity's chairman, Natan Sharansky, said in a statement.
Despite the Jewish Agency's suspension of efforts to being Yemenite Jews to Israel, roughly 50 Jews refuse to leave the country, with 40 living in Sanaa in a compound next to the American Embassy. The largest relocation of Yemenite Jews to Israel occurred at the end of the 1940s when 49,000 arrived as part of Operation Magic Carpet.