Ivory Coast Forces 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel asked the French for assistance in moving four diplomats from the embassy
in Abidjan to a safer part of the city, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on
The embassy in Abidjan is located in an area of intense
fighting, and Israel contacted the French earlier this week for assistance in
moving them to one of three safe areas in the city.
Heavy fighting shakes Gbagbo grip on Ivory Coast
Fighting rages in Ivory Coast, 800 dead in west
The ministry stressed
that there was no intention to evacuate diplomats from the country.
ministry spokesman said that the Israeli embassy was by no means a target, but
that the whole area right now is not a “comfortable place” to be in.
French assisted in the evacuation of Japanese diplomats in a similar
In addition to the diplomats, some 18 other Israelis are in
the country, and have chosen to remain. They have also been advised to move to
the three safe areas in the city.
Fifty-four Israelis – most of them
businessmen – have left in recent weeks as the country slid into
French forces destroyed military vehicles belonging to troops
loyal to Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo during a helicopter mission that rescued
Japan’s ambassador to the West African country on Thursday.
who have already joined helicopter raids to destroy Gbagbo’s heavy weapons, went
in after Gbagbo soldiers broke into the residence, where ambassador Yoshifumi
Okamura, along with seven of his staff, had taken shelter inside a safe room,
French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard said.
The rescue came as
forces loyal to presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara laid siege to Gbagbo’s
own residence nearby, after an attempt to pluck him from his bunker on Wednesday
was met with fierce resistance.
Fighting continued in Abidjan as
Ouattara’s forces tried to unseat Gbagbo – who has refused to cede power since
losing a November election to Ouattara – according to UN-certified
Sporadic explosions broke the silence of one of the quieter
nights since Ouattara’s soldiers arrived in the economic capital a week ago, a
Reuters witness said.
Burkhard said pro-Gbagbo loyalists had set up
rocket launchers on the roof of the Japanese embassy.
authorities asked the United Nations to act and UNOCI [The UN mission in Ivory
Coast] asked Licorne [French troops] as it has the means to evacuate,” he
The French forces, who were shot at, used a helicopter to airlift
the Japanese officials to safety. “The French forces fired back in self-defense,
destroying at least one armored vehicle and two pick-up trucks.”
soldiers were injured, but one of the Japanese officials was hurt.
former colonial power in Ivory Coast, France has taken a leading role in talks
to persuade Gbagbo to hand over to Ouattara and end the standoff over the
contested election in November.
A UN spokesman in New York said
negotiations with Gbagbo’s camp were continuing, but it was not clear if they
would lead anywhere – especially since Gbagbo told French radio he had no
intention of stepping down.
Helicopters commanded by the UN peacekeeping
mission in Ivory Coast bombarded Gbagbo’s heavy weapons stockpiles earlier this
week, including those near his residence – but those attacks ended on
Gbagbo has ruled the Ivory Coast since 2000, and blames Paris
for supporting the north of the country in the civil war of
Rebels from that war now make up the bulk of Ouattara’s
Last year’s long-delayed election in the world’s top
cocoa-producing nation was meant to draw a line under the civil war – but
Gbagbo’s refusal to give up power has plunged the country into violence that has
killed more than 1,500 people.