In first, wounded Ukrainian service members to be flown to Israel for treatment

Israeli envoy to Ukraine says 20 injured troops en route for medical care including prosthetics, rehabilitation, starting Sunday; Kyiv continues to press for military support

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers in a vehicle in the freed territory of the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)
Wounded Ukrainian soldiers in a vehicle in the freed territory of the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)

Twenty wounded Ukrainian service members will be treated in Israel for the first time, Israel’s envoy to Ukraine said, amid an intense push from Kyiv for support from Israel.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky said Sunday that the first two wounded Ukrainians were set to arrive in Israel Sunday for treatment at Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv.

“Israel will receive for treatment 20 Ukrainian servicemen who were seriously wounded during the war,” Brodsky said. “The treatment includes prosthetics and rehabilitation.”

It was not known when the other 18 would arrive or if the mission could be expanded.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed that Ukrainians were being brought to Israel.

Sheba ran a field hospital in western Ukraine, away from the front lines, for six weeks shortly after Russia invaded, mostly to treat civilians.

Israel for years provided medical treatment to Syrians who came to the Golan border during the civil war there, eventually setting up a military field hospital as part of what was described as a humanitarian effort.

The announcement that Ukrainians would be brought to Israel came after harsh criticism against Israel from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said Friday he was “shocked” by Israel’s lack of defense aid.

Israel has provided Ukraine humanitarian aid and protective equipment, including helmets and flak jackets, but has held off on military supplies as Jerusalem seeks to preserve crucial ties with Moscow.

Israel was one of the few countries to have had warm ties with both warring sides at the start of the war, although the relationship with Moscow has soured in recent months.

Israel has increasingly sided with Kyiv, especially since Prime Minister Yair Lapid took office in July. His predecessor, Naftali Bennett, attempted to broker a deal between Ukraine and Russia.

Equipment for an Israeli field hospital set to be built in the western Ukrainian city of Mostyska is loaded onto a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, March 17, 2022. (Sivan Shahar/Anaba/GPO)

Russia controls the airspace over Syria, where Israel operates against Iran-linked forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group. Russia has largely turned a blind eye to the Israeli airstrikes.

Russia is also home to a significant Jewish population, which appears to have become a bargaining chip, as Russia has threatened to shut down the Jewish Agency, which facilitates Jewish emigration to Israel.

Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, mostly Jewish, have fled to Israel since the start of the war.

Israel’s reluctance to assist Ukraine’s military has repeatedly drawn criticism from Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders.

On Friday, Zelensky complained in an interview that Israel had given “nothing” to Ukraine to help it defend itself.

“Israel gave us nothing. Nothing, zero,” Zelensky told France’s TV5Monde. “I understand they are in a difficult situation with Syria, with Russia.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative, Tuesday, September 20, 2022, in New York. (AP/Julia Nikhinson)

Ukraine has requested Israeli missile defense systems, such as Iron Dome, that could be used to fend off Russian airstrikes.

“I understand they need to defend their land, but then I got information from my intelligence services that Israel provides [the air defenses] in other countries. They can sell, they can export, which is why I am shocked,” Zelensky said.

Israel keeps a lid on how many Iron Dome batteries it possesses and where they are deployed, but it has provided two of the systems to the US, which helped fund its development, and reports recently indicated a deal to sell batteries to Cyprus.

The vaunted Iron Dome intercepts short-range projectiles, such as the relatively crude rockets and mortars fired at Israel by Gaza terror groups. It’s unclear if it would be effective against the larger, more sophisticated Russian missiles pounding Ukrainian cities. The system also requires highly trained troops for its operation.

Earlier this month, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site Zman Yisrael reported that an Israeli defense contractor was supplying anti-drone systems to Ukraine’s military by way of Poland.

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