Israel has called on its citizens to leave Ukraine, as a Russian invasion appears increasingly likely.
“I call … on Israelis in Ukraine: Return home,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “Do not take unnecessary risks. Do not wait for a situation where you really want to return and it will already be impossible.”
In a travel warning issued on Saturday night, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that “following tensions and concern of an escalation, the Foreign Ministry calls on Israeli citizens in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible.”
The ministry also requested that Israelis planning to travel to Ukraine cancel their trips.
The travel warning was published shortly after a meeting Saturday night between Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the heads of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and National Security Council, as well as other top officials.
The leaders discussed preparations for the evacuation of Israelis from Ukraine if needed. The prime minister also consulted with airlines about increasing flights between the two countries.
El Al said on Saturday night that it was adding two flights on Mondays: Flight number 2561 from Ben-Gurion Airport to Kyiv and flight 2652 from Kyiv to Ben-Gurion.
Tickets cost $250 and can be purchased online. Flights already scheduled on Sundays and Thursdays will continue.
“El Al is in constant contact with the Foreign Ministry … and will act in accordance with developments,” the airline said. “The safety and security of the citizens of Israel and Jews wherever they are is before our eyes and we will do everything necessary to help those who are in distress.”
In addition, the Israeli Education Ministry and the Jewish Agency said that on Sunday they would evacuate educational emissaries and their families serving in Ukraine.
“Senior Jewish Agency shlichim based in Ukraine and organizational employees will remain on the ground and will continue serving the Jewish communities in the region,” the Agency said.
The Education Ministry said the emissaries serve in more than 20 Jewish schools in the area. It said the teachers will continue to teach Jewish students in Ukraine via distance learning as much as possible.
“Upon their arrival in Israel, the Ministry of Education will work to place the children of the emissaries in educational institutions, and will make sure to give them a wide envelope of support,” the ministry said.
A 2016 report by Italian-Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola estimated that there are between 56,000 and 140,000 Jews in Ukraine, making it the fourth largest Jewish community in Europe, according to the World Jewish Congress website.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has estimated there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Israelis in Ukraine.