On Sunday 29 October 2023, a mob of several hundred people stormed the Makhachkala airport in the Dagestan region of Russia to protest the arrival of a plane from Israel.
The group was identified as pro-Palestinian protesters, consisting of mostly young men, who were waving Palestinian flags and breaking down glass doors in order to enter the airport. The crowd was reportedly chanting antisemitic slogans and demanding to look at the passports of passengers who had just arrived, to find Israelis among them.
Local authorities stated that 20 people and nine police officers sustained injuries before airport security contained the protest. At least 60 people have been detained by the police. Furthermore, 150 of “the most active protesters” have been identified, according to Sky News.
Rosaviatsia, the Russian civilian aviation agency, later reported that the airfield had been cleared of unauthorised people, but that the Makhachkala airport would tentatively remain closed to incoming aircraft until 6 November.
The unrest followed several other anti-Israel incidents in the North Caucasus triggered by the Israel-Hamas war currently taking place in Gaza. The military conflict has led to a significant rise in antisemitism, which is already deeply ingrained in European society and poses an existential threat to Jewish communities everywhere.
Two Jewish schools in north London, for instance, have been targeted by vandals this month, who threw red paint at them. Nevertheless, the conflict also resulted in a stark rise in Islamophobia. This includes violent assaults and online harassment, which have spiked since the beginning of October.
The death toll since 7 October, when the latest installation of the conflict started, lies at approximately 8,005 Palestinians as of Sunday. A large percentage of these deaths are children. It should be noted however that these numbers cannot be verified since they were provided by the Health Ministry in Gaza, which is Hamas-run. There have been roughly 1,400 deaths on Israel’s side of the war.
Over the weekend, Israel entered a “new phase” of the war by starting a prolonged ground operation in northern Gaza. Troops, armoured vehicles, and bulldozers were seen entering the area, days after Israel told residents to evacuate. This ground assault was accompanied by aerial bombardments throughout the territory.
The conflict worsened an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. The World Health Organization (WHO), stated on Sunday that 12 out of Gaza’s 35 hospitals were non-operational and that seven major hospitals were well over capacity, posing a significant risk to the lives of patients in need of medical care.
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For this reason, US President Biden also called for more aid to be sent to Gaza, as well as assurances that this help would only reach the ones that need it (rather than the militant group Hamas).
Following a request from President Biden, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday 25 October that limited humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza from Egypt. In phone calls with the leaders of Egypt and Israel, Biden has called for “accelerating” the assistance to Gaza.