LOD, Israel — A repatriation flight from Romania carrying Israelis evacuated from Ukraine landed at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv on Tuesday to the teary relief of waiting relatives.
Badr Tawil, 23, a student who fled Ukraine’s under-fire second city Kharkiv, said he had escaped chaos.
“We just woke up once and we heard the sounds around us. Bombs everywhere. So we decided to leave, just to leave Ukraine,” he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday his office had helped 4,000 Israelis leave Ukraine since Russia invaded last week.
“We will do everything to not leave any Israeli behind, or any Jew behind,” he said in remarks to journalists.
Evacuees were forced to escape to neighbouring countries by land after Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian traffic in the face of the Russian invasion.
Many of the Israelis repatriated on Tuesday were members of the Arab minority who make up 20 percent of the Jewish state’s population.
A student who identified himself only as Hussein described a harrowing escape from the war zone.
“For four days, we have been sleeping in staircases and train stations,” he said.
“We had a really difficult time without food. I was in Ukraine in Kharkiv. It is the last year of my studies but now I left everything to return.”
Uda Abu Saied, whose son Muhammad returned on the flight, said she had been terrified for his safety.
“I wasn’t sure if my son would return or not. He was in the most dangerous place,” she said.
“They went on their own with the bus for 24 hours and I imagined all kinds of scenarios like a missile hitting and killing them or maybe that they would get captured.”
The foreign ministry said Monday that one Israeli had been killed in Ukraine when the convoy he was travelling in came under fire as he tried to reach neighbouring Moldova.
The foreign ministry said authorities had contacted the man’s wife, who was in Ukraine with their children.
Also Tuesday, Israel was to send 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including medical equipment and water purification systems, the foreign ministry said.
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