A video of what appears to be Israelis fighting for Ukraine has been circulating on social media since Sunday, as Russia's invasion has entered into its third month.
"We want to give many thanks to all the nation of Israel, to the government of Israel, for helping us while we can fight against the Russians, in this difficult war," said one fighter in accented Hebrew.
The footage was posted by a popular Twitter account of a Canadian volunteer that claims to be fighting the Russian military in the Kherson area. The strategic port city of Kherson was conquered by Russia early in the war.
Israeli fighters in Ukraine?
"We want to thank all the Jews that are helping us," said another alleged Israeli. "We're here for the Ukrainians and for the entire nation whose lives are endangered, we're helping them, we're all here together doing good work."
"These foreign volunteers are from Israel," claimed Iranian historian and journalist Babak Taghvaee. "They once served in the IDF and fought against Hamas, PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and Hezbollah terrorists. They are now in Ukraine to fight against Russian Armed Forces."
The supposed Israeli fighters thanked the head synagogue in Kyiv, and Rabbi Moshe Asman, who has been an outspoken critic of Russia and supporter of Ukraine's defensive war.
“I didn’t leave, I'm here," Asman said in early March. "Because I'm not an indifferent person, nor will I leave my community. I am a rabbi of Ukraine, and I am proud that I have the opportunity to save people. I am proud to be on the side of light, and not on the side of the killers.”
"Thank you to Rabbi Moshe Asman that allowed us to feel the celebration and spirit of the holiday, thank you for the kosher food that we ate here, have a happy holiday, a kosher and happy Passover, happy holiday of freedom," said another fighter said to be an Israeli.
Passover ended on Saturday, indicating that the footage of the fighters is recent.
On Sunday, a Jewish cemetery near Kyiv was struck by Russian missiles, which drew Asman's ire.
“Here is just another barbaric act of fascist invaders,” he said in a Facebook post. “Look, the monuments have been destroyed. Here are the fragments that came from the tombstones. I’ll take the fragments with me in order to show the evidence of the cynicism and villainy of the Russian government... This is scary stuff. It’s good against evil.”
Asman criticized Russian military practices in March, contrasting Russia's procedures to Israel's.
“When the Israeli army bombs terrorists, they fire accurate missiles and do everything to make the attack as accurate as possible, all with the aim of not harming an innocent population,” he said.
Ukrainian foreign legion
It is unknown if the alleged Israelis shown in the video are joint Ukrainian-Israeli citizens who have enlisted into the main military branches of Ukraine's armed forces or have enlisted as foreign fighters.
Ukraine has formed a foreign legion division and a foreign fighter special forces unit for foreign volunteers. The Ukrainian military has claimed that 20,000 foreigners from 52 countries have applied to enlist. The International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine website lists Israel on its website, with local contact information to facilitate Israeli enlistment.
At the war's outset, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel invited Israelis to volunteer in the fight in Ukraine, but the Facebook post was soon deleted. Over a dozen Israelis reportedly joined the fight after the embassy's call to arms, but since then, there has not been much news about Israelis fighting in Ukraine.
At the beginning of March, Russia warned that it would not treat what it calls "foreign mercenaries" as lawful combatants, and would not provide them the rights due under international humanitarian law.
Israeli weapons in Ukraine
Israeli weapons have also been seen in Ukraine, such as in footage published of Azov Battalion using the Israeli-developed MATADOR anti-armor platform. Ukraine recieved MATADOR's from Germany, where the German co-developer Dynamit Nobel Defense produced them.
‼️Полк «Азов» продовжує знищувати ворожу техніку pic.twitter.com/1B2RvgKNXE— АЗОВ (@Polk_Azov) April 19, 2022
Ukrainian soldiers have also been seen with Israeli Tavor rifles, produced by Ukrainian company RPC Fort as the FORT-221.
Last Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israeli would provide Ukraine with helmets and vests.
Zvika Klein, Jerusalem Post Staff and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.