The regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam was under attack by Eritrean and Tigrean rebels. In May 1991 the rebels forced Mengistu to flee and they took the capital. In order to protect the Jews of Ethiopia, the Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir and the IDF planned to airlift the Jewish population to Israel.
The government of Israel authorized a special permit for the Israeli airline, El Al, to fly on the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday, May 24 a massive airlift began and continued non-stop for 36 hours. In total there were 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130s, with seats removed to hold the maximum passengers, involved in the operation.