MOSCOW (AP) — Hundreds of people stormed into the main airport in Russia’s Dagestan region and onto the landing field Sunday, chanting antisemitic slogans and seeking passengers arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv, Israel, Russian news agencies and social media reported.
Russian news reports said the crowd surrounded the airliner, which belonged to Russian carrier Red Wings.
Authorities closed the airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, and police converged on the facility. Dagestan’s Ministry of Health said more than 20 people were injured, with two in critical condition. It said the injured included police officers and civilians.
Video on social media showed some in the crowd waving Palestinian flags and others trying to overturn a police car. Antisemitic slogans can be heard being shouted and some in the crowd examined the passports of arriving passengers, apparently in an attempt to identify those who were Israeli.
In a statement Sunday night, Israeli 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.
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 that those involved would be brought to justice.
While voicing support for Palestinians in Gaza, the regional Dagestani government appealed to citizens to remain calm and not take part in such protests.
“We urge residents of the republic to treat the current situation in the world with understanding. Federal authorities and international organizations are making every effort to bring about a ceasefire against Gaza civilians … we urge residents of the republic not to succumb to the provocations of destructive groups and not to create panic in society,” the Dagestani government 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.
Dagestan Gov. Sergei Melikov 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.
He called the protests a “knife in the backs of those who gave their lives for the security of the Motherland,” referring to the 1999 war in Dagestan and troops currently fighting in Ukraine.
Russia’s civilian aviation agency, Rosaviatsia, later reported that the airfield had been cleared, but that the airport would remain closed to incoming aircraft until Nov. 6.