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Russia-Ukraine war: Israel sends aid and 'offers to mediate' to stop fighting

Israel is wary of clashing with Russia, especially over next-door Syria, where Moscow has military sway.
A burning Russian passport next to candles during a protest against Russia's military operation in Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy, Tel Aviv, 26 February 2022 (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that his country would send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as the Kremlin announced Israel had offered to mediate in the crisis with Russia.

Speaking on television after a weekly cabinet meeting, Bennett said his government was proceeding “with moderation and responsibility” on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“We pray for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that further bloodshed is prevented,” he added.

The Kremlin said on Sunday that Bennett offered his country's services as a mediator to bring peace to Ukraine in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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It said the conversation had been an Israeli initiative.

While Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid has condemned Russia’s invasion as “a serious violation of the international order”, Bennett has stopped short of such remarks.

Israel is wary of clashing with Russia, especially over next-door Syria, where Moscow has military sway.

Russia-Ukraine war: For Israel's Russian speakers conflict is painful and personal
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He said Israel is sending 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including water-purification kits, medical equipment, and tents. It will arrive within days.

The mediation request by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was “being attended to”, Interior Minister Ayelet Shakeda, a Bennett confidante, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV on Saturday. But she would not be drawn on the matter further.

The Russian embassy declined to comment.

Israel is home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. It is also mindful of the wellbeing of the two countries’ large Jewish communities.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, told AFP that Bennett’s government would likely face growing calls to back Western and US efforts to sanction and isolate Moscow.

“Doing so would be ill-advised,” warned Oren, who has held senior foreign policy roles with various Israeli governments.

“While Israel has to condemn the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we have the Russian army on our northern border,” he said, referring to the large Russian presence that has been in Syria since 2015.

“That is a matter of national security.”

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