Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz headed to Ukraine on Sunday to visit the Israeli field hospital set up in the war-torn country.
“This is the first visit of an Israeli minister to Ukraine [since Russia invaded on February 24], and it is undoubtedly an expression of our commitment to aid the Ukrainian nation in its time of need,” Horowitz said in a video message posted to social media before his departure.
Horowitz said Ukraine is not facing its battle against Russia alone, but is backed by “the entire democratic world, which Israel is a part of.
“We will continue to do all that we can to assist the Ukrainians against the Russians’ brutal attack,” the health minister added.
Israel has faced criticism from Ukraine and around the world for not providing military assistance to Kyiv, though it has sent multiple shipments of humanitarian aid. The field hospital, named Kochav Meir (“Shining Star”), opened almost two weeks ago in Mostyska, an hour and a half from Lviv in western Ukraine.
The Health Ministry said Saturday that more than 1,500 Ukrainian refugees so far have been treated at the field hospital as they fled the country. About 80 medical officials departed Israel on Saturday evening for Ukraine in order to relieve the hospital’s current medical staff. Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash briefed the team at the airport ahead of their departure.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk said last week that Horowitz was scheduled to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart during his trip.
Last month, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Romania and Slovakia, both of which border Ukraine, for talks with their leaders and to meet with Israeli officials working on the frontier, but he did not enter Ukrainian territory.
Israeli and Ukrainian officials have vacillated between clashing and coordinating during the five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, as Jerusalem walks a fine line trying to assist Kyiv without alienating Moscow. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided harshly criticizing Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while working to help broker talks between Moscow and Kyiv.
Several days after it opened, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted his appreciation for the Israeli efforts in operating the field hospital.
“Grateful to the State of Israel for setting up the #ShiningStar field hospital in Lviv region,” tweeted Dmytro Kuleba. “I thank its team of Israeli physicians and paramedics for their important humanitarian mission and tireless work to help Ukrainian men, women, and children at this difficult time.”