Israelis heard 'bombs everywhere' before fleeing Ukraine amid Russian invasion

Waiting families relieved as repatriation flight lands at Ben Gurion Airport

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A repatriation flight carrying Israelis from Ukraine has landed near Tel Aviv — to the relief of waiting relatives.

The flight from Romania landed at Ben Gurion Airport outside Israel's most populous city on Tuesday.

It comes as Russia amassed a military convoy about 64 kilometres in length north-west of Kiev on Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin has shown no signs of stopping his attack on Ukraine.

"We just woke up once and we heard the sounds around us. Bombs everywhere. So we decided to leave, just to leave Ukraine," Badr Tawil, 23, a student, told AFP.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said 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 told 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 Israelis repatriated on Tuesday were members of the Arab minority who make up 20 per cent of the state's population.

A student who identified himself 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.

Israelis arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Ukraine to be greeted by waiting family members. Photo: AFP

"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 on 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 ministry said the authorities had contacted the man's wife, who was in Ukraine with their children.

Also on Tuesday, the ministry said it would send 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including medical equipment and water purification systems.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 10:42 AM
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