On Sunday evening, a mob of people entered an airport in Makhachkala, the capital of the Muslim-majority Russian Republic of Dagestan, reportedly looking for Israeli passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv. Russian officials are blaming "external interference" from the West for the incident.
Authorities in Dagestan have identified 150 people who were part of the mob that encircled the plane from Tel Aviv. The mob was fueled by rumors that Israeli refugees were relocating to the region due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The incident resulted in over 20 injuries, including police and civilians, with two people in critical condition.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a meeting with top security officials and law enforcement to discuss "western attempts to use events in the Middle East to split Russian society." Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, stated that the airport incident was "obviously" the result of external interference.
Russia's Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation into the mob on charges of organizing unrest, but it is unclear if there are charges against the arrested individuals. Dagestan Governor Sergei Melikhov blamed the airport mob on Russia's "enemies," including Ukraine, calling it a betrayal of their soldiers defending the country.
Melikhov specifically pointed to a Telegram channel based in Ukraine for spreading the rumor of Israeli refugees being relocated to the region. The channel, Morning Dagestan, has ties to Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian politician who opposes the Russian government. However, Ponomarev denies being in charge of the channel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office responded to the mob, expecting Russian legal authorities to safeguard the well-being of all Israeli citizens and Jews and take strong action against the rioters. Israel's ambassador to Russia is working with Russian authorities to protect Jews and Israelis in the area.
The Caucasus region has seen numerous protests in support of Palestine amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Russia has called for a ceasefire in Gaza and expressed support for Palestinian forces. Hamas leaders recently met with the Russian deputy foreign minister to discuss the release of foreign hostages held by Hamas and the evacuation of foreigners from the region.
The situation has raised concerns among the Jewish community in Dagestan, with one rabbi stating that the community is very afraid and unsure of where to flee. The investigation into the incident and the alleged external interference continues.