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Netanyahu deputy urges Israel to help defend Ukraine against Russia 'terrorism'

Israeli minister of health Yuli Edelstein gestures prior to attend a session of Questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris, on 16 May 2018, as part of his state visit to France. [ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli minister Yuli Edelstein gestures in Paris, as part of his state visit to France. [ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP via Getty Images]

A senior lawmaker from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party called, on Tuesday, for the country to stop "fence-sitting" on Ukraine and provide it with military defences against Russia, which he accused of "terrorism", Reuters reports.

The remarks by Yuli Edelstein, head of the Israeli Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, were welcomed by Kyiv, but met no immediate response from Netanyahu.

While it has condemned the Russian invasion and provided Ukraine with humanitarian relief and protective gear, Israel has stopped short of widening the assistance to include defence technologies like missile interceptors.

It has also been measured in its rhetoric on Russia, mindful of the need to coordinate Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria with Moscow's garrison in the Arab state.

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"We must no longer sit on the fence," Edelstein tweeted after he and an Israeli opposition lawmaker, Zeev Elkin, met Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv.

In a joint statement, Edelstein and Elkin called on the Netanyahu government to "significantly increase" support for Ukraine, deeming the humanitarian relief insufficient.

"We must assist Ukraine in all realms where Israeli technology – including military – is capable of helping protect the civilian population, its liberty and its independence," they said.

Edelstein and Elkin cited assistance by Israel's arch-enemy, Iran, for what they described as "the Russian military's terrorism against the civilian population of Ukrainian cities".

Netanyahu's office and the Russian embassy in Israel did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Russia says it is fighting for its own security against an aggressively expanding NATO alliance.

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Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, visited Kyiv to pledge continued assistance, including the improving of Ukraine's air defence early warning system. That idea was introduced last year, but Kyiv said it had made little progress.

A Ukrainian official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said he was "cautiously encouraged" by Edelstein and Elkin, describing their statement as "the first that fully aligned with our vision or the reality of our two countries".

Both lawmakers are Ukrainian-born Jewish immigrants to Israel. But the Ukrainian official played down any significance, saying that, from his conversations with them, he believed "they both want Israel to be on the right side of history".

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