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Russia: Mob storms Dagestan airport in search for Israelis

October 29, 2023

Against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict, anti-Jewish attacks have been on the rise in Russia's Muslim-dominated North Caucasus. Israel has urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews.

A crowd of people stands outside the entrance to one of the terminals at Makhachkala Airport in Dagestan, Russia
A violent mob arrived at Makhachkala airport, searching for a plane from Tel AvivImage: Ramazan Rashidov/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Police in Russia's Dagestan region say they have now arrested 60 people in connection with unrest over the arrival of a flight from Israel.

A violent crowd stormed the airport in Makhachkala, in the Republic of Dagestan in southern Russia, on Sunday evening in search of Israeli citizens after word spread that a plane was arriving from Israel.

What we know so far

Officials in the predominantly Muslim region on Monday morning said they had regained control of the airport. Twenty people were wounded before security forces were able to contain the unrest, local authorities said

Russian news reports said people in the crowd had shouted antisemitic slogans and tried to storm the plane, which had landed from Tel Aviv. Video on social media showed some in the crowd on the landing field waving Palestinian flags.

Dagestan: Hundreds storm airport looking for Israelis

The protesters broke through doors in the terminal, with some running onto the runway and others breaking through barriers to check cars leaving the airport, according to videos posted on social media.

Numerous people also poured onto the airfield. The airport was temporarily closed, and arriving planes were diverted to other airports, the Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia said. The government of Dagestan reported that "the situation is under control, law enforcement is working at the scene."

Israel urges Russia to protect Israelis, Jews

Israel has urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews in their jurisdictions following media reports of potential reprisals by pro-Palestinian protesters in Dagestan.

A statement by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said the Israeli ambassador in Moscow was working with Russian authorities. "The State of Israel views gravely attempts to harm Israelis citizens and Jews anywhere," the statement said.

"Israel expects the Russian law enforcement authorities to safeguard all Israeli citizens and Jews, whoever they may be, and to take robust action against the rioters and against the unbridled incitement being directed at Jews and Israelis," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Anti-Semitic rage in North Causacus

Authorities in Dagestan called on people taking part in storming the local airport looking for Israelis to stop "illegal acts," asking its residents not to "succumb to provocations."

"We recommend that all persons who have violated the operating procedures of the [airport] facility not to continue illegal acts and not to interfere with the work of airport employees," Dagestan's government said on Telegram.

The storming of Makhachkala Airport was not an isolated incident, but part of a broader trend in the predominantly Muslim region of the North Caucasus.

People walk on the tarmac of Makhachkala airport in Dagestan, in the background is a green military helicopter
People shouted antisemitic slogans as they walked on the tarmac of Makhachkala AirportImage: AP/picture alliance

On Saturday, a crowd of angry people surrounded a hotel in the city of Khasavyurt in Dagestan because of a rumor that refugees from Israel were staying there. According to local reports, several dozen men entered the hotel to allegedly check the passports of hotel guests.

In Nalchik on Sunday, tires were set on fire next to a Jewish cultural center under construction. The building was defaced with extremist slogans such as "Death to the Jews," according to security officials in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. In the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, demonstrators called for the expulsion of the local Jewish population.

dh/jcg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)