'Hundreds of children stolen' by Israel in 1950s


One of the most sensitive chapters of Israel's early years is set to be re-opened as the government could be about to acknowledge for the first time that, in the 1950s, young children of Yemenite immigrants to Israel were abducted from their families.

Overturning the conclusions of three previous commissions of inquiry set up by the government, cabinet minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who has been appointed to examine the issue, said over the weekend that "many hundreds of children were stolen".

The issue has festered for decades. The government repeatedly denied claims by families who had been told their children died in hospital that their offspring were actually abducted and put up for adoption.

Nearly 50,000 Jews secretly emigrated from Yemen between 1948 and 1956 in an operation orchestrated by the Jewish Agency and Mossad.

Most of the families lived in temporary camps for the first few years. Young children who were taken ill often did not return from hospital. Their parents had been told they had died but became suspicious when they failed to find any graves and when, years later, they received IDF call-up papers for their supposedly deceased children.

Discrepancies have been explained by the bureaucratic muddle of the state's early years. The last commission of inquiry into the case, which delivered its report in 2001, found that there was no proof of organised abduction.

Mr Hanegbi, having now seen the documents, said that he has reached an opposite conclusion.

However, he said he was yet to discover which, if any, government authority was involved.

He will recommend that the government open all the necessary documents to the public in two months when his review is complete.

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