Tel Aviv: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed hope on Sunday that tensions between Russia and Ukraine will be relieved without escalation, but urged Israelis to return home from Ukraine as soon as possible.
“We do not know what the developments will be between Russia and Ukraine. Like the rest of the world, we hope that the tension will end without escalation; however, our primary obligation is to look after our Israeli citizens,” Bennett said in an opening to a weekly cabinet meeting, as quoted by his office.
He urged Israeli citizens in Ukraine to leave immediately while they can.
“Do not take unnecessary risks. Do not wait for a situation in which you will very much want to return but will be unable to do so. Be responsible for your lives and leave Ukraine as quickly as possible and come home,” Bennett said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also urged the citizens to leave Ukraine for Israel and said that over 30 Ukraine-Israel flights are planned for next week.
“We are continuing preparations for the return of Israelis from Ukraine, and for the next 48 hours, 10 flights are planned. The aircraft that returned yesterday from Ukraine were full. Thirty-two flights are planned for the coming week. I am calling on Israeli citizens to join these flights,” Lapid said on Twitter.
On Saturday, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs also strongly recommended that citizens leave Ukraine as soon as possible, and the day prior, Israeli diplomats with their families were evacuated from Kiev.
A number of countries, including New Zealand, Belgium and Finland, have already reported on reduction of diplomatic staff in Ukraine, and called on their citizens to desist from non-essential trips to the country. In the past few months, Western countries and Ukraine have accused Russia of a military build-up near the Ukrainian border in an alleged preparation for invasion.
Moscow has repeatedly rejected these accusations, stating that it is not threatening anyone and at the same time expressing strong concerns over NATO’s military activity near Russian borders, which it deems a threat to the national security. Russia has also said that it has the right to move troops within its territory.