Conversation between defense chiefs postponed

Ukraine officially asks Israel for Iron Dome, Iron Beam, other defense tech

In letter, Ukrainian government requests laser system still in development, US-made Patriot missiles and more; says its ‘expects positive reaction’

File: An Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, on August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: An Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, on August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In an official request submitted to Israel this week, the Ukrainian government asked for top air defense systems developed by Israel, some of which are not yet operational, according to a letter obtained by the Axios website.

The outlet cited a copy of the Tuesday letter containing the requests, which stated that Ukraine “is highly interested in obtaining from Israel (in shortest possible terms) defense systems, in particular: Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow Interceptor and Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators.”

The laser-based Iron Beam, intended for use against short-range missile and mortar attacks as well as drones, is not yet operational. The Patriot missile defense system is made by the US and has not been included in the hardware of Washington’s own multi-billion dollar supplies to Ukraine.

David’s Sling and the Arrow Interceptor, medium- and long-range defense systems respectively, are cutting-edge interceptors.

In justifying the requests, the Ukrainians said that “according to available information… there is a high probability of prompt deliveries to the Russian Federation of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran,” Axios reported.

They noted that Russia “has switched to new methods of armed aggression against Ukraine,” including attacks on civilian areas using Iranian drones.

The letter argued that supplying the requested systems will benefit Israel as “positive experience gained by Iran of using… weapons in Ukraine will lead to further improvement of Iranian systems.”

Such experience will “significantly contribute in strengthening Iran’s potential of producing offensive weapons and, as a result, will increase the security threats for the State of Israel and the Middle East region,” the letter noted.

“The Ukrainian side expects a positive reaction from Israel to this proposal,” the letter said.

Israeli officials confirmed to Axios that the letter had arrived.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid was expected to speak to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later Thursday. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz was also set to speak by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, however, his office later said the call had been postponed at the request of the Ukrainians.

The ‘Iron Beam’ laser-based air defense system is seen intercepting a target over southern Israel, March 2022. (Defense Ministry)

On Wednesday Gantz declared that while Israel will continue its support for Ukraine over the invasion, “it will not deliver weapon systems to Ukraine, due to a variety of operational considerations.”

However, he said Jerusalem could supply an early-warning system to the beleaguered nation to warn of incoming strikes, like the one used in Israel.

“We have sent a request to the Ukrainians to share information about their needs for air defense alerts. Once we gain this information, we will be able to assist in the development of a life-saving civilian early-warning system,” Gantz told a group of European Union ambassadors a day after Ukraine said it would submit a formal request for Israeli air defense systems like Iron Dome.

On Monday, Dmitri Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, warned Israel in a social media post that any “reckless” supply of military equipment to Ukraine “will destroy all interstate relations between our countries.”

Earlier this week, the Washington Post, citing US and allied security officials, reported that Iran planned to provide Russia with additional drones and also “surface-to-surface missiles.”

Iran agreed to sell Moscow Fateh 110 and Zolfaghar short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Tehran on Tuesday said the claims about its drones in Russian hands were “baseless” and said it was ready for talks with Kyiv.

A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Since the early days of the invasion, senior Ukrainian officials have asked Israel to send it missile defense systems, especially the Iron Dome, in public addresses and in private conversations with decision-makers in Jerusalem.

Israel has repeatedly rebuffed Kyiv’s requests for defensive weapons despite expressing sympathy for the country’s plight and sending humanitarian aid.

Iron Dome would likely not be useful in countering Russian missile attacks, as it is intended to tackle simple short-range rockets and not advanced long-range missiles. However, other Israeli defensive systems could prove effective.

Israel has sought to preserve its increasingly fraught ties with Russia during the war. Russia controls the airspace over Syria, where Israel acts against Iranian-linked targets, including the Hezbollah terror group.

In a rare expression of unity between coalition and opposition figures, Gantz and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday both expressed an unwillingness to alter Israel’s policy of not sending defense weapons to Ukraine.

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