Israel has come under pressure to share its expertise on drone warfare with Ukrainian forces as Kyiv faces a new threat from Iranian drones sold to Russia.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel complained this week that it “has not done enough” to provide air support, echoing a similar warning from President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Several letters to Benny Gantz, the defence minister of Israel, have so far gone unanswered, he said.
He also warned that the drone attacks could directly affect Israel, citing reports that Iranian-made drones have been launched to attack Jewish pilgrims in Uman in southern Ukraine.
“We are asking for more help from Israel, with an emphasis on military aid,” said Yevgen Korniychuk in an interview with Israeli broadcaster Channel 2.
“There are requests that are placed on the desk of defence minister Gantz without a response,” he added.
“Israel needs to equip us with anti-aircraft weapons. This is the time. So far Israel has not done enough. Israel is good at humanitarian aid, but we won’t win with bandages.”
Referring to reports of an Iranian drone attack on Jewish pilgrims in Uman, he said Ukrainian troops “operated well” in responding to the threat.
The request puts Israel in an uncomfortable position as its so-called shadow war with Iran has turned the country into a leading authority on tackling the regime’s drones and other weapons.
However, it is also extremely cautious of angering Russia, which so far has turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks on Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
Moscow is also threatening to shut down the Jewish Agency in Russia, which helps Russian Jews emigrate to Israel, in apparent retaliation for Israeli leaders condemning the invasion of Ukraine.
After several months of dire losses on the battlefield and in the absence of their own drone programme, Russia is increasingly reliant on Iranian-manufactured UAVs to hit back at Ukraine’s forces, including several attacks on the city of Odesa.
Iran’s Shahed 136s are cheap and reportedly built from parts of mobile phones and model aircraft engines. They are often referred to as suicide or kamikaze drones as they can fly up to 600 miles before detonating a 50kg explosive.
But experts say they are unlikely to turn the tide of the war.
“This is a relatively cheap and expendable weapon that Russia can use, it’s not a war-winning weapon and unless Moscow builds thousands of them locally, it won’t likely have a major impact,” said Seth Frantzman, an Israeli Middle East analyst and the author of ‘Drone Wars’.
This “basic” weapon is “certainly an increasing problem for Ukraine [and] the damage caused will be tragic and militarily inconvenient”, added Justin Bronk, a military technology expert at the British security think tank Rusi.
“However… even if hundreds get through [they] are unlikely to change the outcome.”
Iran appears to be expanding its drone programme beyond the Middle East, where they are already used by its proxy forces, such as Hizbollah in Syria and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed 13 people in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq this week with a series of drone and missile attacks, in an apparent attempt to blame Kurds for mass protests in Iran.
But in addition to giving the drones to Russia, Iran is suspected of launching a drone attack in the Gulf last year on the Mercer Street vessel, killing a British sailor and a Romanian captain.
The Telegraph approached the Israeli foreign ministry for comment but did not receive a response.
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