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(photo credit: AP [file])
Three Yemenite Jewish families, comprising 16 people, including small children, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon.
The Jewish Agency "is upset at the publication of the fact that they made aliya," agency spokesman Alex Selsky said after news of the families' immigration was leaked to Israeli Web sites on Sunday.
The agency would not provide details on their path to aliya or their identities.
They will be housed in the agency's absorption center in Beersheba, where 10 other Yemenite Jews have been housed since making aliya some three months ago. The previous group is being transferred in the coming days to a rented apartment in Beit Shemesh, and will be granted a public housing apartment in the coming weeks.
The Jewish Agency's Aliya Department director Eli Cohen used the opportunity to call on "all the Jews of Yemen to come to Israel and not to anywhere else in the world," a reference to the desire of about half of Yemen's remaining Jews to move to the United States.
Some 260 Jews remain in Yemen, mostly in Raida and the capital, Sana'a. Observers say their situation has grown worse as they have become the target of radical Islamist groups in the country.
The situation of the Yemenite Jewish community was underscored on Sunday by the sentencing to death of Abdel Aziz Yehia Hamoud al-Abdi by a Yemeni court. Abdi was convicted of murdering Jewish teacher and community activist Moshe Yaish Nahari in December, in Omran, north of Sana'a.
Sunday's ruling overturned a previous sentence in March that deemed the defendant, a retired pilot in the Yemeni air force, as "mentally unstable" and ordered him to pay a "blood fine" of 50.5 million riyals, or about $250,000.
The original ruling was unusual because Islamic law normally stipulates a man convicted of murder can only be spared the death penalty if the victim's family agrees to compensation, known as diyah. The family refused to accept the fine, and vowed to pursue the death penalty.
During the first trial, Abdi admitted gunning down Nahari. He said he warned other Jews they must convert to Islam or be killed.
After Ahmed al-Budani read the verdict on Sunday, Abdi told the judge: "This sentence is an honor to me."
Abdi's attorneys said they would appeal to the country's supreme court.
AP and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.