Oct 29 (Reuters) – Russian authorities closed an airport in the city of Makhachkala in the northern Caucasus region and diverted flights, including one from Israel, after media reports showed demonstrators denouncing Israeli actions in Gaza had gathered at the facility.
The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia said security forces had by 10:20 p.m. Moscow time (1920 GMT) removed the group from Makhachkala airport in Dagestan – one of several areas in the north Caucasus region that is home to large Muslim communities.
The authority said the airport would remain closed pending “normalisation” of the situation. Russia’s Investigative Committee ordered a criminal probe into the incident.
Israel urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews in their jurisdictions following the reports.
A statement by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said the Israeli ambassador in Moscow was working with Russian authorities. “The State of Israel views gravely attempts to harm Israelis citizens and Jews anywhere,” the statement said.
Kavkaz-Realii, a division of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, posted videos of noisy crowds waving Palestinian flags in and around the terminal building in Makhachkala.
Other Russian media showed one group attempting to approach the aircraft, but the passengers remained safely on board. Reuters could not determine if the passengers were able to eventually disembark.
The identification number on the tail of the plane indicated it had arrived from Israel, according to the FlightRadar24 flight tracking website.
Regional leaders in Dagestan and in two other areas of the northern Caucasus called for calm. A similar appeal was issued by Dagestan’s chief mufti.
Russia has tried to maintain in contact with all sides in the conflict pitting Israel against Hamas but angered Israeli authorities by inviting a Hamas delegation to Moscow. Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Sunday.
Writing by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Lisa Shumaker
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