Israeli aid workers and hundreds more citizens of the Jewish state were caught up in the hostilities that broke out on Sunday night in the capital city of Juba.

“IsraAID, founded in 2001, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long term support,” its website explains. “For over a decade, IsraAid has been helping people all over the world overcome extreme crises and has provided millions with the vital support needed to move from destruction to reconstruction, and eventually, to sustainable living.”

In South Sudan, IsraAID is supporting “efforts to fight gender-based violence through professional capacity-building and cooperative programming with the government, the police, and local organizations.”

South Sudan President Salva Kiir ordered a curfew on Monday afternoon. The airport and border crossings were reportedly closed.

An attempted coup d’etat by soldiers loyal to his former deputy was defeated and, after intense fighting throughout the night, the government regained full control, Kiir said.

The UN estimated that hundreds were killed.

“Ophelie Namiech, IsraAid’s regional director for East and Central Africa, said the group’s operations would be suspended until stability was restored to Juba,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) said.

“’I have been living in Juba for the past two years. I got to know the people of South Sudan, and their determination to reach peace and stability,’ Namiech wrote in an email sent to supporters. ‘For the first time, I see people being scared for their lives, praying and hoping to find ways of survival,’” the news agency reported.

Israel’s non-resident Ambassador to South Sudan Haim Koren told The Jerusalem Post on Monday evening that the Foreign Ministry is in contact with the Israelis there. Ministry Spokesman Paul Hirschson had no exact figure for the number of Israelis in South Sudan, but he did acknowledge that Israel is “fairly active there,” the Post said.

South Sudan formally declared independence from Sudan – a radical Islamist state hostile to Israel – in July 2011 and established diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Author: United with Israel Staff
Date: Dec. 17, 2013