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Israel encourages citizens to leave Ukraine

Israeli citizens living in Ukraine may be at risk as Russia threatens an invasion. On Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged them to return home to Israel.

“Like the entire world, we hope that the tension will end without an escalation,” he said. “But our first obligation is to take care of Israeli citizens. Therefore, on Saturday the foreign minister and I, and our teams, saw to it to greatly increase the frequency of flights to Israel, and I am calling again upon Israelis in Ukraine: come home. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t wait for a situation where you really want to come back, but it will be impossible.”

READ: Ministry on the frontlines of Ukraine and Russia

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also warned that the window to evacuate Israelis from Ukraine has grown “especially small.”

Israel is preparing for the possibility that Ukraine’s skies could close to air traffic if a conflict with Russia ensues. Although Israel believes that scenario is unlikely, the country is prepared to evacuate Israelis through Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia, Lapid said.

Israeli authorities have also been working on a secret plan to rescue Jews from Ukraine and bring them to Israel if an invasion happens, according to “The Jerusalem Post.” Details of the operation remain unclear. The foreign minister said more than 6,000 Israelis in Ukraine have signed up to receive emergency updates and information from Israel’s embassy.

Despite the calls to evacuate, Israelis aren’t filling up flights from Ukraine to Tel Aviv, Foreign Ministry officials said on Sunday. Israel already has begun evacuating the families of its diplomats in Ukraine. However, the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv will continue to operate with a full team of diplomatic staff, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We are reinforcing the embassy in Kyiv in order to better address the needs of citizens of Israel and the Jewish community in Ukraine if necessary,” Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll said.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice