Iran testing drones on Ukrainian civilians for future use on Israel -Ukraine

"Today hundreds of Iranian drones are undergoing 'test runs' on our land, killing civilians," said the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022.
(photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iran is using Ukraine as a testing ground for its drones to prepare for future drone attacks on Israel, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed on Thursday. 

"Today hundreds of Iranian drones are undergoing 'test runs' on our land, killing civilians," The Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter. "These drones were not intended for use against Ukraine. To have a strategic advantage over its enemy, Israel should conduct a 'test run' of its air defenses Ukraine is the best testing ground."

The comment was made the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Ukrainian Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke about cooperation between Iran and Russia, and the day that it was confirmed by the US not only that Iran was selling drones and missiles to Russia, but that Iranian military personnel were overseeing the launch of the suicide drones against Ukraine.

"Today hundreds of Iranian drones are undergoing 'test runs' on our land, killing civilians. These drones were not intended for use against Ukraine."

Ukrainian Defense Ministry

Ukraine seeks Israeli air defenses

"I spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and informed him on unspeakable suffering, loss of life, and destruction caused by Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones," said Kuleba. "We discussed in detail Ukraine’s request for Israel to provide air and missile defense systems and technology."

Lapid's office said that he emphasized Israel's support of Ukraine, and in an interview with the independent Russian-language news channel RTVI, Lapid said “The relations between Iran and Russia are a serious problem not only for Israel but for Ukraine, Europe and the rest of the world. The fact that Russia is using Iranian UAVs to kill Ukrainian civilians is unacceptable.”

 Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Israeli Minister of Energy Karin Elharar hold a press conference on the maritime border deal with Lebanon, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Israeli Minister of Energy Karin Elharar hold a press conference on the maritime border deal with Lebanon, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Lapid and other Israeli officials have refused to provide weapons to Ukraine.

In a letter from the Ukrainian embassy in Israel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry published by Axios on Wednesday, Ukraine laid out that it requested the air defense platforms "Iron Beam, Barak-8, Patriot, Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow Interceptors and Israeli support in training for Ukrainian operators." Some of these platforms, such as Iron Beam, are not currently in service.

“Israel will not deliver weapon systems to Ukraine due to a variety of operational considerations," Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday.  "We will continue to support Ukraine within our limitations as we have done in the past.”

However, Gantz did say "We have asked the Ukrainians to share information regarding their needs and have offered to assist in developing a life-saving, early-warning system.”

Israel has provided humanitarian aid such as meals as well as non-combat materials such as helmets and vests to Ukraine. According to a New York Times report last Wednesday, a senior Ukrainian official said that Israel has also been providing Ukraine with "basic intelligence" on the Iranian drones used by Russia in its invasion. He also said that a private Israeli firm was also giving Ukraine satellite imagery of Russian troop positions. 

Iran Russia alliance

Ukrainian requests for aid from Israel have increased as Iranian cooperation with Russia has deepened. 

On Thursday the White House confirmed the extent of Iranian involvement in Ukraine, confirming earlier Ukrainian reports. 

"We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs and using them to conduct kinetic strikes across Ukraine in strikes against Kyiv, and in recent days we assess that Iranian personnel — Iranian military personnel — were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations," said US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price at a Thursday evening press briefing.

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby also confirmed on Thursday Washington Post and Reuters reports that Iran intended to sell high-precision ballistic missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine. 

"In light of Russia’s ongoing supply shortages, we are concerned that Russia may also seek to acquire advanced conventional weapons from Iran, such as surface-to-surface missiles that will almost certainly be used to support the war against Ukraine," said Kirby.

Kirby continued, saying "Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine — in fact, that are killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine."

Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.