Israeli footballer in Turkey briefly detained over Gaza war message

Sagiv Jehezkel

A Turkish court on Monday released pending trial an Israeli footballer who was detained after displaying a message referring to the Israel-Hamas war during a first division match, Agence France-Presse reported.

Sagiv Jehezkel, 28, held up a bandage on his wrist reading “100 days. 7/10” next to a Star of David when he celebrated scoring a goal for Antalyaspor against Trabzonspor on Sunday.

Turkish prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into Jehezkel’s for alleged “incitement to hate,” and his club tore up the forward’s contract for “exhibiting behavior that goes against our country’s sensitivities.”

Israel furiously condemned Jehezkel’s detention, sending relations between the two regional powers to a new low.

“Turkey has become a dark dictatorship, working against humane values and sports values,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said.

“I call on the international community and the international sports organizations to act against Turkey and against its political use of violence and threats against athletes.”

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said Jehezkel would return to Israel later on Monday. Turkey’s NTV television said Israel had sent a private plan to pick up the player and his family overnight.

The message on Jehezkel’s bandage referred to the 100 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which was marked on Sunday.

In testimony to the police, Jehezkel said he wanted to call attention to the hostages taken by Hamas and in no way intended to support the war.

“I am not a pro-war person,” the private DHA news agency reported him as saying.

“After all, there are also Israeli soldiers taken prisoner in Gaza. I am someone who believes that this 100-day period should end now. I want the war to end. That’s why I showed the sign,” he reportedly told the police.

On October 7, Hamas militants launched an attack in Israel, killing about 1,140 people and abducting around 250 others, 132 of whom remain in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

In retaliation, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a relentless military assault on Gaza that has killed at least 23,968 people in the Palestinian territory, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

‘Never disrespected anyone’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of Israel over the scale of death and destruction happening in Gaza.

Jehezkel displayed the Star of David — the official symbol on the Israeli flag.

He said he never intended to get involved in politics and was careful to respect Turkish cultural sensitivities since signing with the Mediterranean coast club in September.

“Since the day I arrived, I have never disrespected anyone. The point I wanted to draw attention to was the end of the war,” he said.

Antalyaspor said it had suspended Jehezkel, accusing him of having “acted against the values of our country.”

“Our board will never allow behavior against the sensitivities of our country no matter if it costs championship or trophy,” the club said on X, formerly Twitter.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) also condemned what it said was “completely unacceptable behavior” by Jehezkel and said Antalyaspor’s decision to exclude the player from its team was “appropriate.”

Çaglayan Group, Antalyaspor’s main shirt sponsor, said they would withdraw their sponsorship if Jehezkel’s contract was not terminated.

Public broadcaster TRT reported on Monday that Turkish authorities decided for the deportation of Jehezkel from Turkey.

Turkey’s Minister of Justice Yılmaz Tunç said late on Sunday on X that an investigation had been launched due to the player’s “ugly action supporting Israel’s massacre in Gaza.”

In a separate incident, İstanbul’s top-flight side Başakşehir said it was launching a disciplinary investigation into another Israeli player, Eden Karzev, for reposting a social media message about the hostages reading: “Bring Them Home Now.”

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