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Israel shuts Ukraine field hospital after 6 weeks, medical team returns home

‘Shining Star’ center had been flagship of Israel’s assistance to Kyiv; its doctors treated over 6,000 civilian patients

A ceremony to open an Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 22, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)
A ceremony to open an Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 22, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

An Israeli medical team sent to western Ukraine to run a field hospital set up following the Russian invasion returned home Friday as Israel shuttered the clinic after six weeks of operation.

The hospital in Mostyska, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Lviv, operated under the name “Kohav Meir” (“Shining Star”), a pun on the name of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine and was the founder of the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation aid program, which led the project along with Sheba Medical Center.

During six weeks of operation, the hospital treated more than 6,000 patients and delivered at least one baby. Most of those treated were not war wounded, but rather civilians who may have struggled to receive care with Ukraine’s resources stretched thin by the invasion.

The hospital had initially been set to operate for a month, but the closing date was twice delayed, with the initial 100 staff members — 80 of whom are doctors and nurses — being replaced by new crews from the Sheba Medical Center.

During a visit to the hospital earlier in the month Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz thanked medical staff for their “holy work.”

“You provide medical care here of the highest level, with great expertise and professionalism under really difficult conditions. Well done,” he said.

The hospital, which had 150 beds across its emergency, pediatric, and obstetrics and gynecology wards, was intended for civilian use.  The NIS 21 million ($6.5 million) facility filled 10 outdoor tents and also converted multiple classrooms into hospitalization wards.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, with microphone, speaking to staff of Israel’s field hospital near Lviv, Ukraine on April 4, 2022, in a handout photo provided by the Health Ministry. (Sharon Yaniv/Health Ministry)

The hospital had been the flagship of Israel’s assistance to Ukraine, which has been limited to humanitarian aid, though Kyiv had sought military aid as well.

Israeli and Ukrainian officials have vacillated between clashing and coordinating during the 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.

Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow democracy, and Russia.

Natalia Moiseinko holds her 10-year-old daughter Zlata Moiseinko, suffering from a chronic heart condition, as she receives treatment at a schoolhouse that has been converted into an Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, western Ukraine, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Recent weeks have seen a shift by Israel, following reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians, which led Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to explicitly accuse Russia of war crimes, language previously avoided.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last week that Israel will supply helmets and flak jackets to the beleaguered nation’s emergency services after long refusing to provide defensive equipment to Ukraine.

Kyiv has long asked for Israel to sell it defensive military equipment, including the Iron Dome air defense system, but so far has been rebuffed by Jerusalem. Ukraine has also requested cyber weaponry to use against Russia, including the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus hacking software, according to reports.

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