The Russian Ministry of the Interior announced Monday morning that overnight police took over the airport in the city of Makhachkala in the Republic of Dagestan, where hundreds of Muslims planned to harm the passengers on a plane that landed from Israel.
The 15 Israelis who were on the plane were isolated and secured at the airport in southern Russia, and later received permission to leave the terminal. Some were flown to Moscow at their request, and some continued on to other destinations in Dagestan. The incident was handled by officials of the Foreign Ministry, National Security Ministry and other security agencies, led by Israel's ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi and with the close assistance of local government and security officials.
Shmuel, 26, of Jerusalem, was one of 45 passengers on the Red Wings Airlines flight to Makhachkala. He came to visit his fiancée, who lives there, and was one of 16 Israelis on the flight, including children. Most of them wanted to reach Moscow, and Makhachkala was a stopover for them.
The plane landed at 8:19 p.m. local time, and the passengers were taken off for passport control. "We were told to wait here, that we can't go out because there is a mess outside," Shmuel told Ynet. "There were a lot of police and we were standing in the passport complex, then suddenly we saw hundreds of people bursting in."
Shmuel said the police evacuated the passengers of the plane to a bus. "We saw people running to the runway of the airport and throwing stones at our bus," he said. "Inside the bus children were shouting and a girl was also injured by broken glass that flew at her. I don't know if she is Israeli or local. There was a very big mess here, it was scary."
"The bus drove through the airport grounds and tried to escape from the crowd," he added. "There was a very small police force there that did nothing. The bus kept turning around in the harbor area, and people were chasing it and throwing stones. I put my suitcase on the window."
"At one point, hundreds of people came and stopped the bus. They came inside, went from person to person and asked if he was a Muslim or a Jew. I said I was a Muslim, because I was scared to death. Fortunately, they believed me and continued on," Shmuel also said.
"The great luck that all the Israelis on the bus spoke Russian," he added. "There were those who asked to see their passports and they had a foreign passport and that's how they were saved. It could have ended in our murder. We know that the rioters shot and wounded a flight attendant."
Shmuel added that, at some point, the police rescued the bus to the VIP complex at the airport, where they were guarded. "There were thousands of Hamas supporters in the field," he said. "After four hours of terrible fear, a Russian army helicopter arrived and evacuated us while under fire. They shot in the air to keep the crowds away, like an action movie, and then they took us to a military base in another city. We slept there, and in the morning they gave us food. Whoever wanted could continue to Moscow by plane, and those who wanted to were allowed to stay."
"When I was on the bus I was scared and I actually feared death," he concluded. "If they had interrogated me in depth, they would have found out that I am Israeli. I personally do not know Russian, but luckily there was an Israeli who spoke Russian who helped me. It was terrifying and terrible. I felt powerless."
In the videos that came from the airport, the Muslims were seen calling "Allahu Akbar," waving Palestinian flags, breaking down the doors in the terminal and throwing rocks at the plane. According to the reports in Russia, they stopped and checked vehicles in order to locate Israelis. Nine policemen and 11 rioters were injured in the clashes at the airport, two of them seriously. Following the riots, Russia suspended flights at the airport until security checks were completed.
The Russian Ministry of the Interior said in a statement Monday morning that it has identified 150 people who took a prominent part in the riots, of which 60 suspects have been arrested so far. The Ministry of the Interior's statement added that the authorities are working to identify all those involved, and that "currently the airport is under the full control of the law enforcement authorities."
Sergei Malikov, the governor of the Republic of Dagestan, said that the riots at the airport were a flagrant violation of the law, even though Dagestanis "sympathize with the suffering of the victims of the actions of politicians and evil people, and pray for peace in Palestine. There is no courage in waiting for a crowd of helpless people who have done nothing illegal." Regional leaders in the North Caucasus called for calm, as did the mufti of Dagestan. Israel called on the Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews who are in their territory.
There were many preliminary signs of riots in the terminal, but no one at the Foreign Ministry prevented the chaos. In recent days, the popular UFC fighter from Dagestan, Khabib Nurmagomedov, posted anti-Israel content for his 35 million followers on Instagram. The star is very popular in Dagestan, as is UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev, who posted similar content and even dedicated a victory to Gaza in the battle in Dubai.
In Dagestan last week there was also a demonstration demanding the expulsion of Jews, and crowds flocking to the Flamingo Hotel went room by room with Russian security forces to make sure there were no Jews there. The hotel management even published a notice that Israelis and Jews are not allowed to enter the establishment.
The attempt by the residents of the republic in southern Russia to harm Israelis and Jews was against the backdrop of the Kremlin's lack of support for Israel during the war in Gaza, and the arrival of a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow.
Stella Weinstein, who returned from a city close to Makhachkala, said Sunday that members of her family still live there and are expressing anxiety following the Muslims who chant 'Allahu Akbar' and seek to harm Israelis in Russia.
"The Caucasus has always been warm and loving to the Jews, there are Jewish towns there. The Caucasus is the only place in the Soviet Union where Jews maintained their religious lifestyle relatively freely. These are delusional images, which result from the fake news that the Russian media spreads and that the world media spreads. There is an especially active and prosperous Jewish community in the city Derbent and their lives are in danger, they must be taken out now," she said.