Hundreds of people stormed the main airport in Russia’s Dagestan region on Sunday evening to protest the arrival of a flight from Israel.
Authorities on Sunday closed the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, and police converged on the facility. There were no immediate reports of arrests but there were several injuries.
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“As a result of the incident at Makhachkala airport, there are injured (people), who are receiving medical help,” Dagestan’s health ministry said on Telegram, without elaborating.
Local news reports said the airliner belonged to Russian carrier Red Wings.
Social media footage showed some in the crowd on the landing field waving Palestinian flags and others checking the passports of passengers who had arrived in Makhachkala.
“We’re getting reports that now, protesters are trying to overturn a police car at Makhachkala airport,” said Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from Moscow. “Police reportedly fired into the air to try and disperse the crowd.”
One protester could be seen in the videos holding a sign reading, “Child killers have no place in Dagestan.”
In a statement released on Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that 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.”
Appeals for calm
The Ministry of Internal Affairs for Russia’s North Caucasian Federal District, where Dagestan is located, said that CCTV footage would be used to establish the identities of those who stormed the airport and those involved would be brought to justice.
While voicing support for Gaza, the regional Dagestan government appealed to citizens to remain calm and not take part in such protests.
The government warned the protesters on Telegram “not to continue illegal acts and not to interfere with the work of airport employees”.
The statement added: “It is not easy for each of us to stand and watch the inhumane massacre of a civilian population – the Palestinian people. At the same time, we urge residents of the republic not to succumb to provocations of destructive groups and not to create panic in society.”
The incident comes as Israel pushes forward with expanded ground operations inside the Gaza Strip, even as heavy aerial bombardment continues. More than 8,000 Palestinians, including 3,324 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war began. At least 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in Israel, mostly in a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
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 on Telegram.
Russia’s civilian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, later reported that the airfield had been cleared of unauthorised people but that the airport would tentatively remain closed to incoming aircraft until November 6.
Chechnya and Dagestan are two volatile republics in Russia, both of which have mainly Muslim populations.
Earlier on Sunday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported that a Jewish centre in the city of Nalchik in another Russian republic – Kabardino-Balkaria – had been set on fire.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies