Using both airplanes and overland routes, Israel has evacuated nearly all the Jews from strife-torn Chechnya, Jewish sources said Monday.
Hundreds left the secessionist Russian republic, the last several dozen amid fierce fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels. The capital, Grozny, was the most difficult area to evacuate Jews from, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The operation was conducted with the secrecy that marked Israel’s rescue of Jews from Ethiopia in recent years, from Afghanistan during the Russian invasion that began in 1979 and the evacuation of nearly the entire Jewish population of Iraq after the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
Israel applied its “right of return” to give haven to the Chechen Jews, many of whom had intermarried with the predominantly Muslim population, and to their children.
Like the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union, many of the Chechens admitted to Israel as Jews were of mixed marriages and do not practice the religion.
The rescue operation was conducted over several months.
The Jewish population of the largely Muslim republic is relatively small. A precise count of the Jewish emigres was not available.