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Russia closes airport after a mob attack on airplane from Israel

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News

A Russian regional airport in a majority Muslim region was shut down after reports and images on social media showed a mob forcing their way onto the tarmac where a plane from Israel had landed.

Parts of the airport in Makhachkala, the regional capital of Dagestan, were invaded by “unknown people,” Russia’s federal aviation agency Rosaviatsia said in a post on Telegram on Sunday evening. It took hours to restore order. Rosaviatsia said the premises were finally cleared but that the hub would be closed for a week.

A crowd of people, some carrying Palestinian flags, massed at the airport where a Red Wings plane from Tel Aviv was arriving, according to reports. Unverified footage abounded on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing people shouting “Allahu Akbar!” rush onto the runway, with one person seen climbing onto the engine and then onto the wing of the jet.

Officials were quick to respond to the disturbing scenes playing out in the North Caucasus that 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. A deadly incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 by the militant group, designated a terrorist outfit by the U.S. and European Union, 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.

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.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose country was invaded by Russia in February 2022, also 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.”

The unrest follows anti-Israel protests in Dagestan and nearby areas. The head of the Dagestan region, Sergey Melikov, denounced the airport attack and promised an “appropriate assessment from law enforcement.”

Tensions between Israel and Russia have been growing. 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 Hamas.

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(With assistance from Galit Altstein.)