Seven Ethiopian officers defect while in Israel

Seven Ethiopian soldiers who defected to Eritrea while in Israel were flown to Eritrea Wednesday night by the Eritrean ambassador. Tensions are high between the two neighboring African countries, which fought a border war in the late 1990s. The officers had come to Israel to learn how to use military equipment Ethiopia had purchased from a private defense company in Israel, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. Eritrea's ambassador to Israel Tesfamariam Tekeste told Israel Radio that the soldiers had arrived at his home this week asking for asylum. A number of them wanted to reunite with family members living in Eritrea, which does not have good relations with Ethiopia. The ambassador arranged for the soldiers to fly to Eritrea and then notified the Foreign Ministry. Regev said that the ministry knew about the defection only after the soldiers had left. "We never spoke to them. Israel didn't do anything at all," said Regev. The soldiers entered and left the country legally, he said. "We were surprised by this," he added.