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February 20, 2022 5:12 pm
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Israel Reiterates Call for Citizens to ‘Immediately’ Leave Ukraine Amid Fears of Russian Invasion

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Ukrainian service members ride an infantry vehicle on the front line near the village of Zaitseve in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Feb. 19, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday reiterated a plea for Israeli citizens to “immediately” leave Ukraine amid Western fears over an imminent Russian invasion.

“We are in a delicate time vis-à-vis global stability. We do not know what any given day will bring,” Bennett said.

“I appeal from here to all Israeli citizens who are still in Ukraine: This is not the time to be complacent. A little discomfort now is preferable to tangible danger to your lives later. Come home,” he urged.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz cautioned that in “war, the winner gets to lose as well.”

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“It is the responsibility of the world leaders to spread calm, to promote discourse and to uphold the principles that will preserve world peace and security,” Gantz said. “This should be the approach towards the conflict in Ukraine … everything must be done to prevent bloodshed.”

According to the Foreign Ministry, more than 3,000 Israelis have already left Ukraine out of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 residing in the country.

“But there are many thousands more who are still there at a time when airlines are already cancelling flights,” Bennett said.

About 75 Ukrainian immigrants took a pre-planned flight to Israel on Sunday, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigration and Absorption.

“We are ready to absorb the thousands of immigrants who will want to immigrate to Israel,” said Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. “I have instructed all relevant parties to work collaboratively and be prepared for any scenario of a massive flash rise.”

One of the families that arrived at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport from Kiev — Yana Kovalenko, 27, and her husband Yevgeny, 28, with their daughter — described the situation in Ukraine as “scary.”

“Everyone only talks about the war. Until the last minute, we were worried that the flight would get cancelled because of the situation,” said Yana.

Her parents, grandparents, and younger brother already immigrated to Israel before the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are very happy for the opportunity we have to immigrate to Israel,” she added.

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