Bennett condemns civilian killings but doesn’t blame Russian forces; Lapid directly accuses Russia of ‘war crimes’

“Once again, the ground is soaked with the blood of innocent civilians. The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific,” Lapid said.

By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday condemned the massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, while stopping short of blaming Russian forces, as Israel’s top diplomat directly accused Moscow of perpetrating “war crimes” for the first time.

“We are shocked by the horrible pictures from Bucha and we condemn them with all force,” Bennett said, speaking at a press conference at a West Bank army base. “The suffering of the people of Ukraine is huge and we do everything we can to help.”

Shortly after, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stepped up Israeli criticism by accusing “Russian forces” of committing “war crimes,” and reiterated his “strong” condemnation of what happened in Bucha.

“There is a war in Europe. Once again, a large and powerful country has invaded a smaller neighbor without any justification. Once again, the ground is soaked with the blood of innocent civilians,” Lapid said during a diplomatic visit in Athens. “The images and testimony from Ukraine are horrific.”

While Israeli officials have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bennett has avoided openly criticizing Moscow, while acting as a mediator between the two sides’ leaders to try and advance peace talks. Israel has also sought to avoid jeopardizing its ability to conduct operations in Syria against Iranian targets, which depends on coordination with the Kremlin.

“There is also a point of light in this darkness: the world is not silent. The world isn’t cynical, it isn’t driven purely by interests and economic benefit,” Lapid said. “A coalition, rare in size and power, has come together to help Ukraine, and to stand by its side.”

Bennett remarked that Israel’s field hospital set up in March, in the town of Mostyska in western Ukraine, has so far treated 2,200 Ukrainians under “often difficult conditions.”

“We are sending planes with humanitarian aid and we are absorbing refugees from the Ukraine as well as new immigrants,” he added.

During a visit to the field hospital on Monday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz pointed out that Israel is the only country operating such a facility within Ukraine.

“We will continue to reach out a helping hand to the Ukrainian people,” stated Horowitz, the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit Ukraine since the start of the Russian aggression in the war-torn country. “This is our moral duty in the face of the brutal Russian invasion, in the face of the massacres and war crimes being carried out on this land.”