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Crowd storms Russian airport to protest flight from Israel; at least 20 people injured

MOSCOW: Hundreds of people stormed into the main airport in Russia’s Dagestan region and onto the landing field Sunday, chanting antisemitic slogans and seeking passengers arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv, Israel, Russian news agencies and social media reported.

Russian news reports said the crowd surrounded the airliner, which belonged to Russian carrier Red Wings. The website Flightradar indicated that a Red Wings flight out of Tel Aviv had landed at Makhachkala at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).
The independent Russian media outlet Sota said it was a transiting flight that had been due to take off again for Moscow two hours later.

Authorities closed the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, and police converged on the facility. Dagestan’s Ministry of Health said more than 20 people were injured, with two in critical condition. It said the injured included police officers and civilians.

Russia’s civilian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, later reported that the airfield had been cleared, but that the airport would remain closed to incoming aircraft until Nov. 6.

Video on social media showed some in the crowd waving Palestinian flags and others trying to overturn a police car. Antisemitic slogans can be heard being shouted and some in the crowd examined the passports of arriving passengers, apparently in an attempt to identify those who were Israeli.

One protester could be seen in the videos holding a sign reading “Child killers have no place in Dagestan.”

Other videos showed a crowd inside an airport terminal trying to break down doors as staff members tried to deter them.

The incident comes as Israeli forces continued to besiege and pummel Gaza in a bid to avenge the Oct. 7 storming of Israel’s border villages by Hamas militantsl, indiscriminately killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 230 others.

Israel’s relentless bombing of the coastal strip has killed more than 8,000 people, half of them children, according to aid agencies and the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

People in the crowd converge at Makhachkala airport in Russia’s Dagestan region on Oct. 30, 2023, to  denounce Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians. The mob stormed into the main airport and onto the landing field to search for Jews on board an airliner coming from Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo)

In a statement Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel “expects the Russian law enforcement 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.”
Netanyahu’s office added that the Israeli ambassador to Russia was working with Russia to keep Israelis and Jews safe.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs for Russia’s North Caucasian Federal District, where Dagestan is located, said that CCTV footage would be used to establish the identities of those who stormed the airport and that those involved would be brought to justice.
While voicing support for Palestinians in Gaza, the regional Dagestani government appealed to citizens to remain calm and not take part in such protests.
“We urge residents of the republic to treat the current situation in the world with understanding. Federal authorities and international organizations are making every effort to bring about a cease-fire against Gaza civilians … we urge residents of the republic not to succumb to the provocations of destructive groups and not to create panic in society,” the Dagestani government wrote on Telegram.

Combo image showing video grabs on the storming of Makhachkala airport in Russia’s Muslim region of Dagestan on Sunday. (Screen grabs from videos shared on social media)

The Supreme Mufti of Dagestan, Sheikh Akhmad Afandi, called on residents to stop the unrest at the airport.
“You are mistaken. This issue cannot be resolved in this way. We understand and perceive your indignation very painfully. … We will solve this issue differently. Not with rallies, but appropriately. Maximum patience and calm for you,” he said in a video published to Telegram.
Dagestan Gov. Sergei Melikov promised consequences for anyone who took part in the violence.

“All Dagestanis empathize with the suffering of victims by the actions of unrighteous people and politicians and pray for peace in Palestine. But what happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive the appropriate assessment from law enforcement. And this will definitely be done!” he wrote on Telegram.

Dagestan and Chechnya are both mainly Muslim areas — known in Russia as “republics” — in a region that has witnessed years of violent tension with the central Russian authorities.
Earlier on Sunday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported that a Jewish center in another North Caucasus republic — Kabardino-Balkaria — had been set on fire in the city of Nalchik.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, expressing concern at the “appalling” videos posted on social media, said on X, formerly Twitter, that it was not an isolated incident.
It was, he said, “part of Russia’s widespread culture of hatred toward other nations, which is propagated by state television, pundits and authorities.”
Dagestan is Russia’s southernmost territory and one of its poorest regions.
It has taken an active part in the Ukraine offensive — with independent reports showing it has sent proportionally more men to Ukraine than many more ethnically Russian regions.
Melikov, in his statement, said the mob had betrayed Dagestanis who were “representing the republic with dignity” while fighting in Ukraine.

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