Israel said to rebuff US request for old anti-aircraft missiles to give to Ukraine

Defense official tells Biden administration Jerusalem has not changed policy against providing weapons to Kyiv, report says

Image shows US Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in a Saudi Arabian desert, 1991. (AP Photo)
Image shows US Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in a Saudi Arabian desert, 1991. (AP Photo)

Israel has in recent weeks refused requests from the US to hand over ten Hawk anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of interceptor missiles for delivery to Ukraine, according to a Wednesday report.

Dror Shalom, who heads the Defense Ministry’s political-Military Bureau, told the US Defense Department that Israel has not changed its policy of not sending weapons to Ukraine, and the defensive armaments are obsolete anyway, according to the Walla news site, citing three Israeli officials.

The weapons are mothballed in storage in Israel, the report said.

The officials told Walla the answer given to Washington was not genuine as the interceptor missiles, originally supplied to Israel in the 1960s, can be refurbished.

US officials told Walla that a similar request was made to other states that still use the Hawk system, and those that also have the system in storage.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin mentioned the request in a speech to the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group earlier in January.

“Hawk systems helped to make Israel more secure throughout the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur Wa, and beyond,” Austin said. “And as Russia has cruelly targeted Ukraine’s cities and civilians, we are working with our allies and partners to provide the Hawk capability to the free government of Ukraine.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right, meets with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on May 19, 2022. (Shmulik Almany/GPO)

Israel has resisted providing weapons to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

The issue has strained ties between Jerusalem and Kyiv, as the Ukrainians have consistently pressed Israel to provide more defense aid. The Ukrainian ambassador earlier this month urged Israel to supply his country with missile defense systems in the wake of continued deadly Russian strikes.

Israel has provided large amounts of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as other types of assistance, and the new government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it intends to keep those supplies flowing.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that the US military was quietly shipping hundreds of thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine from a massive stockpile in Israel.

The armaments were stored for the US to use in regional conflicts, and Israel has permission to use some of the supplies in emergency situations, The New York Times reported, citing American and Israeli officials.

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