Israel edges toward air defense assistance for Ukraine

Jerusalem, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Israel offered on Wednesday to help Ukrainians develop alerts for civilians under air attack, signaling a softening in its policy of non-military intervention after Kyiv appealed for counter-measures against Iranian-made drones used by Russia.

Though it has condemned the Russian invasion, Israel has limited its Ukraine assistance to humanitarian relief, citing a desire for continued cooperation with Moscow over war-ravaged neighbor Syria and concerns for the wellbeing of Russia’s large Jewish community.

On Tuesday, Ukraine stepped up appeals for Israeli help after reporting multiple Russian strikes using Iranian Shahed-136 ‘kamikaze’ drones. Israel, a foe of Iran, has developed methods for detecting and downing them.

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Iran denies supplying drones to Russia, while the Kremlin has not commented.

Israel has asked Ukraine “to share information about their needs for air defense alerts,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told EU ambassadors, according to a statement by his office.

“Once we gain this information, we will be able to assist in the development of a life-saving civilian early-warning system.”

Asked to respond, Ukraine Ambassador Yevgen Kornichuk told Reuters that the system on offer “is not relevant any more”. He declined to comment further pending further talks with Israel.

The Russian embassy in Israel declined comment.

In parallel to interceptors that can shoot down incoming aerial threats, Israel has a hi-tech radar network that sets off sirens or cellphone alerts to warn citizens to take cover.

Similar early warning technologies could be on offer to Ukraine, a spokesperson for Israel’s Defense Ministry said.

“Israel has a policy of supporting Ukraine via humanitarian aid and the delivery of life-saving defensive equipment,” Gantz told the EU ambassadors.

Israel would however not deliver weapons systems to Ukraine “due to a variety of operational considerations.”

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Reporting by Emily Rose; editing by John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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