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Russia shuts airport after mob encircles flight From Israel

Russia shuts airport after mob encircles flight From Israel
Red Wings Sukhoi Superjet taking off at Pulkovo Airport (Wikimedia Commons)

A Russian airport in a majority Muslim region was temporarily shut down after a mob forced its way onto the tarmac where, according to reports and images on social media, a plane from Israel had landed.

“Unknown people” infiltrated the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region, Russia’s federal aviation agency Rosaviatsia said in a Telegram post on Sunday evening. It took hours to restore order, with the premises finally cleared by 10:20 p.m. Moscow time, the agency said.

On Monday, Rosaviatsia said the airport will resume work on 31 October after initially saying the regional hub may be closed for a week.Israel’s government said in a statement it expected Russian authorities “to protect the safety of all Israeli citizens and Jews wherever they may be and to act resolutely against the rioters and against the wild incitement directed against Jews and Israelis.”

Tensions between Israel and Russia have been growing since the Hamas attack on 7 October. Israel lodged an official complaint to Russia after a Hamas delegation visited Moscow last week. Russia’s ambassador to Israel was summoned Sunday to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem and reprimanded over Moscow’s failure to condemn the militant group, designated a terrorist outfit by the US and European Union.

According to unverified videos on social media, a crowd of people carrying the Palestinian flag forced their way onto a runway of the airport where a Red Wings plane from Tel Aviv was arriving, with one person climbing onto the engine and then onto the wing of the jet. Some people were wounded and sought medical help, the local health ministry said, without giving further details.

The scene unfolded less than 48 hours after Israeli troops and tanks entered the Gaza Strip in what is expected to be a protracted war against Hamas. The deadly incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 by the militant group killed 1,400 people and set off a retaliation that has raised tensions across the Middle East. Officials in Gaza say more than 7,700 people have died so far in Israel’s aerial and ground attacks.

The head of the Dagestan region, Sergey Melikov, denounced the airport attack and promised an “appropriate assessment from law enforcement,” and the prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation. Sixty people were detained, Interfax reported, citing the police.

The incident follows protests in Russia’s largely Muslim North Caucasus region against Israel’s actions in Gaza. In the city of Khasavyurt, Dagestan, people gathered near a hotel demanding to expel Israeli residents while minor protests were held in Makhachkala. In Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, unidentified people set fire to the construction site of a Jewish cultural center on Sunday, according to RIA Novosti.

President Vladimir Putin met with representatives of the country’s biggest religious groups last week, blaming the West for causing the conflict in the Middle East, calling interfaith strife “anti-Russian” and claiming: “We have not seen anti-Semitism on a state level for many years and there is hardly any anti-Semitism on the streets either.”

While the heads of Dagestan and other neighbouring regions condemned anti-Israel acts in their territories, they called the unrest provocations. Melikov blamed “extremists” led by “enemies of Russia” and even went so far as to say he thought it was an operation run from Ukraine, according to RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose country was invaded by Russia in February 2022, was quick to denounce “appalling videos from Makhachkala, Russia, where an angry mob broke into the airport searching for Israeli citizens on the flight from Tel Aviv.” Bloomberg



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