Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Ninaras
City of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Dec. 25, 2017

The United Nations reported Tuesday that 16 of its local staff members in Ethiopia have been detained in the capital city of Addis Ababa.

Six others were detained but later released, according to Aljazeera.

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The Ethiopian government has been engaged in battle with rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) organization, a former regional ruling party that led the country before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed entered office in 2018.

The TPLF and its allies, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) seized control over much of Tigray and some of the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, Aljazeera reported.

Israel Begins to Evacuate Diplomat Families from Ethiopia

Several days ago, Israel, Britain, Zambia and other foreign nations began evacuating their citizens from the country due to the escalating violence, with the warning that the conflict “has potential to escalate and spread quickly and with little warning.”

The US Embassy has ordered its non-essential staff to leave. The UN has also suspended non-essential missions to Addis Ababa.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “recommends that Israeli citizens residing in Ethiopia end their stay in the country due to civil unrest, disruption of movement and access to communications,” adding there may also be disruption of departures by plane.

Israeli diplomatic families are among those who were evacuated this weekend. Other nations have urged their citizens to leave the country while commercial flights are still available.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York, “There has been, as far as I know, no explanation given to us on why these staff members are detained.”

UN security officials have visited the detainees, Dujarric said. All are Ethiopian citizens employed by various UN agencies.

This past September the Ethiopian government expelled seven senior UN officials for “meddling” in its internal affairs.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.