DAGESTAN (Russia): Israel has urged Russia to protect “all its citizens and all Jews” after a large mob shouting antisemitic slogans stormed a Dagestan airport.
Video footage on social media showed an angry crowd running through the airport in Makhachkala seeking people arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv. Some of the crowd ran onto the runway and surrounded aircraft there. Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsia said security forces later brought the situation under control.
The airport was closed on Sunday night. On Monday, Rosaviatsia said the airport had reopened. The agency added that flights from Israel to the North Caucasus would be “temporarily redirected to other cities”. Sixty alleged mob participants have been arrested, Russian news agencies say, citing the local interior ministry. Video clips showed hundreds of people storming the airport terminal, with some waving Palestinian flags.
Many in the crowd shouted antisemitic slogans, while others chanted “Allahu Akbar” – God is greatest.
Video posted on social media showed a mob rampaging through the terminal, asking staff where the “Jews” were.
An Israeli passenger told Ynet that rioters stopped a bus carrying passengers and asked every person if they were Muslim or Jewish. “It was lucky that the Israelis on the plane spoke Russian,” he said. “I saw death on that bus.”
One passenger, who said he was on the flight from Tel Aviv, told local media that he was stopped by the crowd. He said he was let go after rioters told him: “We are not touching non-Jews today.” A local Telegram channel encouraged people to gather at the airport at the time of the flight’s arrival and encouraged participants to search for every Jewish person there.
Local media reported that some demonstrators were stopping cars outside Makhachkala’s airport demanding to see documents. Twenty people were injured, including some police officers, the republic’s health ministry said. Some have serious injuries and two are in critical condition.
Dagestan is a mainly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus, home to some 3.1 million people on the western edge of the Caspian Sea. Its government said a criminal case had been opened for civil disorder.
The rabbi of the Dagestani city of Derbent, Ovadia Isakov, told local media that the future of the estimated 300-400 Jewish families in Dagestan was in doubt. Jews have had a presence in the region since pre-Islamic times. The Israeli prime minister’s office said Russia had to act decisively against incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis.
A US presidential spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, said in a tweet that “the United States vigorously condemns the antisemitic protests in Dagestan”. “The US unequivocally stands with the entire Jewish community as we witness a worldwide surge in antisemitism. There is never any excuse or justification for antisemitism,” the White House National Security Council spokesperson said.
Dagestan’s government voiced support for Gaza, but appealed to citizens to remain calm and not take part in such protests. There have been widespread protests internationally against Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the riots on “outside interference” of “ill-wishers”. He provided no evidence for his claim.
Dagestan’s governor, Sergei Melikov, denounced the mob invasion of the airport, in a post on messaging service Telegram. “There is no honour in hurling abuse at strangers, searching their pockets looking for their passports!” he wrote. He condemned “attacks on women with children”.
The mob’s actions, he said, were a “stab in the back” for Dagestani patriots, including those fighting in Ukraine in the Russian armed forces. “What happened at our airport is outrageous and should receive the appropriate assessment from law enforcement. This will be done,” he wrote.
Israel’s foreign ministry said the Israeli ambassador in Moscow was working with Russian authorities, adding that Israel “views gravely attempts to harm Israeli citizens and Jews anywhere”. “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 ministry statement said.
On Saturday, a crowd in the city of Khasavyurt in Dagestan gathered outside a hotel where they believed some Israelis were staying. The protesters threw stones at the windows and a sign was put on the door reading: “Entrance strictly forbidden to citizens of Israel… (Jews).” Later police reportedly let some into the hotel so they could see for themselves that no Israelis were there.
Dagestan is not the only region in the North Caucasus that has been dealing with unrest. A Jewish centre in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria was set on fire over the weekend.
Akhmed Dudayev, Chechnya’s information minister, has appealed to people not to “follow the lead of provocateurs”. “We cannot allow the incitement of ethnic hatred! Remain vigilant and do not allow yourself to be misled!” he wrote on Telegram. ‑BBC