Western military contractors supporting the Ukrainian Army’s ongoing war effort against Russian forces have reportedly redeployed to Israel to support operations against Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip. The development was reported in the Spanish paper El Mundo among other Western outlets, although the Israeli Defence Forces have claimed to have had no knowledge of such deployments. The contractors in question, who included American citizens, were reportedly previously stationed in the Zaporozhye region, which has been a major centre of hostilities between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Participation of foreign fighters from across the Western world on the side of the Ukrainian government has been well publicised internationally, with assessments of their numbers, roles and effectiveness varying widely. Foreign fighters had broadly been differentiated into three categories, including members of foreign militaries and intelligence services, referred to by the New York Times as a CIA ‘stealth network’ with a very extensive role in the war effort; mercenary fighters sent in by various contractor organisations; and volunteers from across the Western world who have joined the war for ideological reasons.
Diversion of contractors from Ukraine to Israel comes as the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East has diverted Western attentions away from the Ukrainian front, with the escalation of hostilities between Israeli forces and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah threatening to further draw focus away from Eastern Europe. The Lebanese militia boasts capabilities orders of magnitude greater than Hamas’. The outbreak of hostilities on October 7 occurred as Ukrainian forces were reeling from months of failed offensives and recent casualties in the high tens of thousands, and followed widespread predictions from a range of Western sources that failure in the costly and overwhelmingly Western funded offensive would only further strengthen calls to reevaluate further aid. The need to arm and support Israel fuelled already significant resistance in the United States towards further financing the Ukrainian war effort, with Capitol Hill unable to pass aid to either country due to Republican opposition to arming Ukraine, and the Democratic Party’s refusal to arm Israel unless support is passed as part of a package that includes support to Ukraine. With American senior officers and drones confirmed to have been deployed to support Israeli operations, combat operations by American ground units against Hamas forces has been widely reported. The U.S. has also reportedly moved to expand its Site 512 military base in Israel’s Negev desert under 30km from the Gaza Strip.