Hundreds of pro-Palestine protestors stormed an airport in Russia's Dagestan region on Sunday looking for Jewish passengers just after a flight landed from Israel. The protestors, chanting antisemitic slogans, broke into the Makhachkala airport seeking to "avenge Gaza".
Videos doing rounds on social media shows the group of mostly young men waving Palestinian flags, breaking the barricades into the airport shouting "Allahu Akbar".
The crowd then surrounded a plane belonging to Russian carrier Red Wings, which had just landed from Tel Aviv. Some were also seen trying to overturn a police car, shouting antisemitic slogans. The protestors also examined the passports of arriving passengers, apparently in an attempt to identify those who were Israeli.
"There were hundreds at the [Makhachkala] airport. About 50 men approached the airplane and asked passengers if they were Jews. I said no. I’m Russian. They wanted to see my passport. I had a Russian passport. They hung around there and then pulled back at a certain point," one eyewitness said in a recording obtained by Carmel News, a Telegram channel on Russia and Ukraine.
Twenty people were injured before forces contained the protest. Authorities said the passengers on the plane were safe, reported Reuters. The Russian Aviation Authority closed down the airport and Russia's civilian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, later reported that the airfield had been cleared but the airport would remain closed to incoming aircraft until November 6.
An investigation has been launched into the incident by Russia's federal investigations agency. Though there were no immediate reports of arrests.
Sergei Melikov, the head of Dagestan, said the incident was a gross violation of the law, even as Dagestanis "empathise with the suffering of victims of the actions of unrighteous people and politicians, and pray for peace in Palestine". He promised consequences for anyone who took part in the violence.
"The actions of those who gathered at the Makhachkala airport today are a gross violation of the law! ... (W)hat happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive an appropriate assessment from law enforcement agencies! And this will definitely be done!" he wrote on Telegram.
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.
In a statement released Sunday night, 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.
Dagesthan is a Muslim-majority state in Russia and the region has been witnessing several anti-Israeli protests sparked by Israel's war against Hamas militants in Gaza. Russia federal and local authorities for years have struggled to curb Islamist insurgency in the region. It has has a dwindling Jewish community that is mostly concentrated in Derbent, near the border with Azerbaijan.
The Dagestani government said early on Monday that it was strengthening security measures across the republic, which is home to about 3 million people.