Israel sends second shipment of protective equipment to Ukraine
Flight carries 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, 1,000 gas masks, dozens of hazmat filtration systems; Biden, Lapid set to sign declaration including commitment to Ukraine
Israel sent a new shipment of protective equipment to Ukraine’s emergency services, amid Russia’s near five-month-long invasion of its neighbor, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz had announced Tuesday that Israel would send a further 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of mine protection suits, 1,000 gas masks, and dozens of hazmat filtration systems.
The equipment was loaded onto a flight that will first take the cargo to a neighboring European country. From there it will be moved into Ukraine.
The shipment set off as visiting US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid were set to sign a joint strategic partnership declaration in Jerusalem covering a range of defense and regional issues, including a response to Ukraine.
Jerusalem has avoided providing direct military aid to Kyiv — including offensive arms or advanced defensive technology — since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, in an attempt to avoid sparking a crisis with Moscow.
Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine and Russia.
But Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies, which are largely controlled by Moscow.
In April, Gantz okayed for the first time sending Ukrainian emergency services 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets, after long refusing.
That move came following reports of mass killing of civilians, rape and other atrocities committed by Russian forces in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, leading to a change of tone from Israeli politicians.
Lapid, at the time foreign minister, explicitly accused Russia of war crimes over the reports, in the strongest comments against Moscow yet by a top Israeli official.
Ties between Israel and Russia were further frayed following a claim by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Adolf Hitler had Jewish heritage, in an attempt to defend Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to “de-Nazify” a country whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
While Jerusalem somewhat shifted its tone to align more with Western powers that condemn the invasion, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort.
Israel has sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid and set up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks earlier this year.