Diplomats working around the clock to repatriate all nationals stranded in warzones as 4,500 Israelis have reportedly fled the country but another 7,000 still stranded

The Foreign Ministry on Sunday pleaded with Israeli nationals to leave Ukraine posthaste as fierce fighting with Russian forces was ongoing, saying its efforts to evacuate Israelis were limited by the harsh circumstances.

“We’re receiving phone calls from Israelis that are stuck in Ukraine and can’t leave. They say: ‘we don’t have food, come rescue us’. This is frustrating because, for the most part, we can’t help. They’re locked in a warzone and confined to a basement or the subway,” said Eyal Siso, who heads the ministry’s rescue mission.

אייל סיסו משמאל
Eyal Siso in the situation room (Photo: Itamar Eichner)


“I don’t go into questioning why they didn’t listen when we asked everyone to leave Ukraine. This isn’t the time for questioning.
People are very nervous. We must now focus on a solution to the problem.”

Siso and dozens of ministry employees are working around the clock in cooperation with Eastern European embassies towards the same goal.

“Our abilities are limited. It is difficult to rescue Israelis now that many cities are under lockdown and under attack. We spread out our people across the Ukrainian border,” he said.

“Their job is to assist all Israeli citizens that arrive there, from helping them cross the borders and the local immigration authorities, to helping those with special needs skip waiting in long lines, and provide documents to those whose passports have expired, got damaged, or forgotten at home in the middle of the frenzy.”

קבלת שבת בחדר המצב במשרד החוץ
Eyal Siso and the Foreign Ministry’s Ukraine rescue mission


The Foreign Ministry reports that 4,500 Israeli nationals have already fled the country since the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine, 2,000 were evacuated over the last 48 hours alone.

Officials estimate there are another 7,000 Israeli nationals still stranded in Ukraine alongside 3,800 spouses and other relatives who are not Israeli nationals.

Siso also aired his frustration with social media posts claiming the ministry was not helping evacuate Israelis, saying they failed to understand the complexity of the events unfolding.

“We begged Israelis to evacuate. People were indifferent. We urged them to leave repeatedly and now they’re asking where the Foreign Ministry is. But it’s our job to try to help everyone. People haven’t slept for days”, he said.

גבול אוקראינה פולין
Poland-Ukraine border


Speaking to Ynet from Poland, Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky, who heads a task force of fifty diplomats that aim to repatriate all Israelis trapped in the war-torn nation, also shared his experiences conversing with compatriots in distress.

“Israelis call us and can’t understand why Israel isn’t rescuing them. They show up and ask, ‘Isn’t there a rescue mission? This can’t be, how can you leave us like this.’ And when we tell them that we aren’t going to send over commando units to rescue them, with all due respect, they don’t like the answer,” he said.

“Maybe now they’re sorry that they didn’t leave when we asked them to. We’re doing our best to help those who are currently in Lviv, even though we are limited. There’s a ten-hour line at the Polish border and we can’t cut in line. We’re helping with documents, information, and trying to advance the Israelis at the border and help them cross.

Brodsky affirmed that dozens of Israelis with Ukrainian citizenship weren’t permitted to leave due to a government order prohibiting male citizens aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country.

הדיפלומטים הישראלים שהתשתתפו במבצע החילוץ
Israeli diplomats who carried out the rescue mission (Photo: Israeli Embassy in Poland)


“We’re notified of many cases in which Israelis succeeded to cross after bribing officials. There were also those who broke through the border or declared that their passport was lost and left with temporary documents.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Poland rescued 60 Israeli citizens on Saturday night through Korczowa in a mission that lasted over 12 hours.

As reported by Ynetnews