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Antisemitic mob storms through Russian airport as flight from Tel Aviv lands

By Josh Pennington, Pierre Meilhan, Maija Ehlinger and Hadas Gold, CNN

(CNN) — An angry crowd in Russia’s mostly Muslim region of Dagestan stormed an airport where a flight from Israel arrived on Sunday, forcing authorities to close the facility and divert flights.

Multiple videos posted on social media showed a crowd of people inside the Makhachkala Uytash Airport (MCX) and on the runway, some waving the Palestinian flag, others forcing their way through closed doors in the international terminal.

In photos and videos verified by CNN, the crowd outside the airport held antisemitic signs that included slogans such as “We are against Jewish refugees,” and “There is no place for child-killers in Dagestan.”

Clashes left at least 10 people injured, including two people in critical condition, according to a statement by the Dagestan Health Ministry late Sunday.

The airport was temporarily closed and flights were diverted, according to a statement from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, saying “unknown persons” broke into the facility.

The Red Wing Airlines flight from Tel Aviv arrived Sunday at 7:17 p.m. local time, according to Flight Aware, and was quickly surrounded by protesters upon landing.

In one video, a pilot takes to the speaker of his aircraft to say: “It is not safe to open the doors” because “protesters are below our plane.”

According to Russian state media TASS, “those gathered oppose the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

On Sunday Ovadya Isakov, a local representative of the Jewish community, told Russian independent media outlet Podyom that “Israel has lost the information war.”

“The situation is very difficult in Dagestan, people from the community are afraid, they are calling but I don’t know what to advise,” Isakov told the media outlet.

The airport resumed operations on Monday, it said in a statement, while the Kremlin sought to place blame on “external interference.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin has been receiving extensive updates on the situation in Dagestan from various security agencies and local authorities, and has scheduled an extensive meeting for Monday evening to address the riots and alleged Western influence.

The Russian Jewish community called for strict punishment of the perpetrators and urged for responsible media coverage of Middle East events to prevent radicalization.

“The conflict in the Middle East has already affected the lives of people in Russia and that anti-Israeli sentiment has now turned into open aggression towards even Russian Jews,” Rabbi Alexander Boroda, head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, said in a statement provided to CNN.

“We see that local authorities were not prepared for such incidents and allowed large-scale violations of law and order, mass demonstrations with open threats to Jews and Israelis who could end up at the Makhachkala airport,” Boroda said.

The Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, meanwhile warned that “rabid propaganda of extremism and terror” is spreading on social media across Russia, citing both the airport mob and a fire at a Jewish Cultural Center in Nalchik, south-west Russia on Sunday.

The incident is the latest to illustrate huge global tensions and divides over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, which was sparked by a coordinated October 7 attack by the militant group that killed some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and the kidnapping of more than 200 people.

Israel’s retaliation has been relentless, with Gaza under siege and heavily bombarded, inflaming tensions far beyond the Middle East.

Israeli strikes on Gaza have resulted in some 8,000 fatalities, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah said on Sunday, drawing the data from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave. Around 3,000 of those killed are children, according to the same authorities.

Protests have erupted across the world, in support of both Israel and Gaza, with tensions often spilling over.

“Israel expects the Russian legal authorities to safeguard the well-being of all Israeli citizens and Jews wherever they are and to take strong action against the rioters and against the wild incitement being directed against Jews and Israelis,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a joint statement.

“Israeli Ambassador to Russia Alex Ben Zvi is working with the Russian authorities to secure the well-being of Jews and Israelis at the site,” it added.

The US also called on Russia to protect Israelis and Jews.

“The United States vigorously condemns the antisemitic protests in Dagestan, Russia,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson wrote on social media.

“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.”

In another post on social media, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Amb. Deborah E. Lipstadt, condemned the incident.

“We condemn the violent protests that have been reported in Russia threatening Israelis and Jews. We call on Russian authorities to ensure their safety,” Lipstadt said.

Sergey Melikov, head of the Dagestan Republic, took to Telegram Sunday to denounce the incident, telling people to not spread false information or make hasty decisions.

“By your poorly thought-out actions you only aggravate the situation, pleasing the scoundrels who want to exploit the desire to see justice and the impassioned attitude to other people’s grief and unity, which have always distinguished Dagestanis,” Melikov said.

CNN has reached out to Red Wing Airlines for comment.

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed reporting.

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