Oct 29 (Reuters) – Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters besieged the Dagestan airport in Russia’s Makhachkala on Sunday, where a flight from Israel had arrived, forcing Russian security forces to close the airport and divert the planes while protesters were cleared.
About 20 people were injured, two in critical condition, local health officials said. Makhachkala is one of several regions in the North Caucasus region with large Muslim communities.
Video obtained by Reuters showed mostly youths running into the airport waving Palestinian flags, breaking glass doors and shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Greatest”. Outside another group rocked a white truck with the patrol service’s initials in Russian.
At 10:20 p.m. Moscow time (1920 GMT), Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia’s security forces removed the crew. Security forces told Reuters the passengers on board were “in a safe place”.
Earlier in the day, a Jewish center under construction in Nalchik, capital of the neighboring Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, was also set on fire, local emergency officials said.
Rosaviatsia said the airport will remain closed until November 6. Russia’s Investigative Committee ordered a criminal investigation into the incident.
Israel urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews in their jurisdiction following the statement
The Israeli ambassador in Moscow is working with Russian officials, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in a statement. “The State of Israel takes seriously any attempt to harm Israeli citizens and Jews anywhere,” the statement said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was appalled by the events in Dagestan, which Russia’s official reports on Israel blamed for the events.
“This is not an isolated incident in Makhachkala, but part of a widespread culture of hatred of Russia towards other countries, propagated by state television, pundits and officials,” he said.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Social media footage showed some protesters trying to access the plane, but passengers were safe on board.
According to the FlightRadar24 flight tracking website, an identification number on the tail of the plane indicates that it originated from Israel.
Regional leaders in Dagestan and two other parts of the North Caucasus called for peace. A similar appeal was made by the Chief Mufti of Dagestan.
Russia has tried to maintain contact with all sides in the conflict, pitting Israel against Hamas, but has angered Israeli officials by inviting Hamas representatives to Moscow. Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Sunday.
In Jerusalem by Dan Williams; Written by Ron Popsky; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Lisa Schumacher
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