Scoop: Ukraine officially asks Israel for Iron Dome, other defense systems
The Ukrainian government sent Israel on Tuesday an official request for air defense systems that will allow it to counter any Iranian ballistic missiles and Iranian attack drones used by Russia in Ukraine, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Axios.
Driving the news: The letter says Russia has switched to a new method of attacks against Ukraine, including using Iranian-made drones against cities and civilian infrastructure.
- "According to available information ... there is a high probability of prompt deliveries to the Russian Federation of Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from Iran," said the letter sent by the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
- In this context and in order to protect its civilians, Ukraine wants to initiate cooperation with Israel on air and missile defense, the letter added.
- "Ukraine is highly interested in obtaining from Israel (in shortest possible terms) defence systems, in particular: Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow Interceptor and Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators," the letter said.
- Some of the systems in the letter, like the Iron Beam, are not yet operational, and others, like the Patriot, are made in the United States.
The letter stressed that the Ukrainian request is based on the consideration that "positive experience gained by Iran of using ... weapons in Ukraine will lead to further improvement of Iranian systems."
- This will "significantly contribute in strengthening Iran’s potential of producing offensive weapons and, as a result, will increase the security threats for the State of Israel and the Middle East region," the letter said. “The Ukrainian side expects a positive reaction from Israel to this proposal."
- Israeli officials confirmed to Axios that they had received the letter.
The big picture: Israel has given Ukraine humanitarian aid and helmets and bulletproof vests for medical teams, but it has so far refrained from providing advanced weaponry and defensive weapon systems to Ukraine, fearing a clash with Russia that could harm Israel’s security interests in Syria.
- Russia holds enormous influence in Syria but allows Israel to operate freely against Iranian activity there.
What they're saying: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a meeting with EU ambassadors on Wednesday that Israel supports Ukraine via humanitarian aid and the delivery of life-saving defensive equipment, but emphasized that Israel will not deliver weapon systems to Ukraine due to a variety of operational considerations.
- "I plan to review and approve an additional package [of defensive equipment]. We will continue to support Ukraine within our limitations," Gantz said, according to a statement by his office.
- Gantz added Israel sent a request to the Ukrainians to share information about their needs for air defense alerts. “Once we gain this information, we will be able to assist in the development of a life-saving civilian early-warning system," he said.
State of play: The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Iran is expected to expand its support for Russia’s war and provide the Russians with precision-guided, short- and medium-range missiles in addition to the Shahed-136 "kamikaze" drones and the Mohajer-6 attack drones it has already provided Moscow.
- U.S. officials have confirmed the use of Iranian drones by Russia.
- Iran has repeatedly denied providing such weapons to Moscow. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded for the first time on Wednesday to reports of Iranian drones being used by Russia in Ukraine. He didn't deny or confirm their use.
- "A few years ago, when photos of Iranian advanced missiles and drones were published, they said it was Photoshop. Now they say that Iranian drones are very dangerous and ask why do you sell them to someone or give to someone?"
What to watch: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is expected to speak to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday.
- Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is also expected to conduct a call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday.
Go deeper: Ukraine asks Israel to share intel on Iranian support to Russian military
This story has been updated with additional information about Gantz's expected call with his Ukrainian counterpart.