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Israel to send new batch of defensive equipment to Ukraine

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approves aid package of helmets, protective vests and more, continuing policy of not supplying Kyiv with offensive weapons

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Rescue workers clearing rubble of destroyed house after a Russian attack in a residential neighborhood in downtown Kharkiv, Ukraine, on July 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Rescue workers clearing rubble of destroyed house after a Russian attack in a residential neighborhood in downtown Kharkiv, Ukraine, on July 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday approved a new shipment of defensive aid to Ukraine’s emergency services as Russia’s invasion presses on.

The latest aid package will include 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of mine protection suits, 1,000 gas masks and dozens of hazmat filtration systems, according to Gantz’s office.

The protective equipment will be transferred to the country in the coming weeks, the Defense Ministry said.

Jerusalem has so far 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, a fellow Western democracy, 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.

Helmets and flak jackets are shipped to Ukraine, May 19, 2022 (Defense Ministry)

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.

At the time, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is now also prime 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, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort.

Israel has sent some 100 tons of humanitarian aid, as well as setting up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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