A total of 7,800 Ethiopian Jews was rescued by this method. When the Israeli government confirmed the stories, the Sudanese ordered the operation stopped.
The Ethiopian government was outraged, but most Americans reacted jubilantly and shared the feeling of admiration aptly expressed by William Safire: For the first time in history, thousands of black people are being brought into a country not in chains but as citizens. Sources say that all of the Jews in the Sudanese refugee camps would have reached Israel if the airlift had continued for only two more days.
Senators Alan Cranston and Alfonse D'Amato gathered signatures of all one-hundred senators on a letter to President Reagan urging him to use American influence with Sudan to encourage the resumption of the airlift.
The president called Cranston and told him, We'll take care of what's going on. According to Richard Krieger, by the time the letter reached the president on February 21, 1985, plans had already been made to finish the rescue. officials had considered resuming Operation Moses, but, when Bush met with Numeiry on March 3, 1985, he found that Numeiry did not want a repeat of the earlier fiasco. Numeiry insisted, however, that the planned operation be carried out secretly by the Americans and not the Israelis and that the flights not go directly to Israel.
In fact, a handful was left in the camps and anywhere from seven thousand to fifteen thousand are estimated to be still living in Ethiopia today.
Those remaining behind were mainly the very old, the sick, the very young, and the women who, for one reason or another, could not make the arduous journey to Sudan.
Weaver took an embassy plane to check out the runway of a remote airstrip near Gedaref, midway between the camps where most of the Ethiopian Jews were living, and found that it would be acceptable for the operation.
He suggested that Sudan could help by allowing the United States to take the Ethiopian Jews out of the refugee camps.
The planes belonged to Trans European Airlines, a Belgian company owned by an Orthodox Jew, and were used routinely as charter planes to carry Muslim pilgrims to Mecca.
Altogether, thirty-six flights carrying approximately 220 passengers flew first to Brussels and then on to Tel Aviv.
Instead, officials believed, perhaps as many as two thousand Jews were left behind in the camps.
Almost immediately, Israeli and American officials began to look for ways to resume the rescue.