An Israeli footballer who was seized after flashing a message relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict during a first division match was freed awaiting trial by a Turkish court on Monday.
Sagiv Jehezkel, 28, celebrated scoring a goal for Antalyaspor against Trabzonspor on Sunday by holding up a bandage that said “100 days. 07/10” next to a Star of David.
Turkish authorities opened a criminal investigation against Jehezkel for suspected “incitement to hatred,” and his club terminated his contract for “exhibiting behavior that goes against our country’s sensibilities.”
Israel reacted angrily to Jehezkel’s incarceration, bringing ties between the two regional heavyweights to an all-time low.
“Turkey has become a dark dictatorship, working against humane values and sports values,” declared Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz.
“I call on the international community and the international sports organisations to act against Turkey and against its political use of violence and threats against athletes.”
According to an Israeli foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jehezkel will return to Israel later on Monday. According to Turkey’s NTV channel, Israel deployed a private plane to bring up the player and his family overnight.
The statement on Jehezkel’s bandage commemorated the 100th day of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which was observed on Sunday.
In his police statement, Jehezkel said that he wanted to draw attention to the hostages captured by Hamas and had no intention of supporting the conflict.
“I am not a pro-war person,” he was quoted as saying by the private DHA news agency.
“After all, Israeli soldiers have been kidnapped in Gaza.” I feel that the 100-day term should finish right now. I want the conflict to be over. “That’s why I displayed the sign,” he allegedly told the cops.
According to Israeli sources, Hamas terrorists launched an offensive in Israel on October 7, murdering around 1,140 people and abducting approximately 250 others, 132 of whom remain in Gaza.
In response, Israel promised to destroy Hamas and started a relentless military attack on Gaza, killing at least 23,968 Palestinians, the majority of whom were women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
‘I’ve never been disrespectful to anybody.’
Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been one of the Muslim world’s fiercest opponents of Israel due to the extent of death and damage in Gaza.
Jehezkel carried the Star of David, the official emblem of Israel.
He said that he had no intention of becoming engaged in politics and that he had been mindful of Turkish cultural sensitivities since joining the Mediterranean coast club in September.
“I have never disrespected anyone since the day I arrived.” “The point I wanted to emphasize was the end of the war,” he said.
Antalyaspor announced Jehezkel’s dismissal, accusing him of “acting against the values of our country.”
“Our board will never allow behavior against our country’s sensitivities, regardless of whether it costs championship or trophy,” the club declared on X, previously Twitter.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) also denounced Jehezkel’s “completely unacceptable behavior” and claimed Antalyaspor’s decision to ban him from the squad was “appropriate.”
In a second instance, Istanbul’s top-tier club Basaksehir announced a disciplinary inquiry against another Israeli player, Eden Karzev, for reposting a social media message regarding the hostages that read: “Bring Them Home Now.”