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Moscow warns Israel that supplying Ukraine with arms will ‘escalate’ conflict

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MOSCOW — Russia warned Israel on Wednesday against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering military aid for Kyiv and was willing to mediate in the conflict.

“We say that all countries that supply weapons [to Ukraine] should understand that we will consider these [weapons] to be legitimate targets for Russia’s armed forces,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

The Kremlin has warned of an escalation in the conflict as Ukraine’s Western partners vow to supply more weapons to Kyiv.

“Any attempts — implemented or even unrealized but announced for the supply of additional, new or some other weapons — will lead to an escalation of this crisis. And everyone should be aware of this,” Zakharova said.

In an interview with CNN aired on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he was “looking into” providing Kyiv with “other kinds of aid” besides humanitarian help, amid concerns over Israel’s “complex relationship” with Russia and its need to retain “freedom of action” in Syria in its effort to “keep Iran in check.”

Washington and Berlin this month said they would supply Kyiv with modern tanks but Ukraine is also asking its backers for fighter jets and long-range artillery.

The warning from Moscow also comes after reports in recent weeks that Israel has refused requests from the US to hand over ten Hawk anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of interceptor missiles for delivery to Ukraine.

A Leopard 2 tank is seen in action during a visit of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius at the Bundeswehr tank battalion 203 at the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf, Germany, February 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

However, The New York Times reported last month that the US military was quietly shipping hundreds of thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine from a massive stockpile it stores in Israel.

Israel has resisted providing weapons to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

The issue has strained ties between Jerusalem and Kyiv, as the Ukrainians have consistently pressed Israel to provide more defense aid. The Ukrainian ambassador earlier this month urged Israel to supply his country with missile defense systems in the wake of continued deadly Russian strikes.

Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the new government under Netanyahu has said it intends to keep those supplies flowing.

This week Israel sent Ukraine three armored ambulances.

Netanyahu told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he has been asked before to mediate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and that he would “certainly consider” doing so if asked again, but only if the US agreed.

“If I’m asked by both sides, and frankly, if I’m asked by the United States — because I think, you know, you can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen… and you know, we have our own backyard to deal with,” Netanyahu said.

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