Israeli footballer leaves Turkey after being detained for Gaza message

Sagiv Jehezkel

An Israeli footballer left Turkey on Monday after being detained overnight and charged with incitement to hatred for displaying a message about 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 for alleged “incitement to hatred and hostility,” and his club tore up the forward’s contract for “exhibiting behavior that goes against our country’s sensitivities.”

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said Jehezkel flew out of Turkey after appearing in court and being released pending trial.

“Turkey is always on the side of all the oppressed and the Palestinian people,” Yerlikaya said in a social media post.

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

“Turkey has become a dark dictatorship, working against humane values and sports values,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, whose country had earlier advised Israeli citizens to leave Turkey as a security precaution.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Turkey of “acting like the executive branch of Hamas.”

It was not immediately clear if a trial would be conducted in absentia, or if Jehezkel intended to return to Turkey.

‘I am not pro-war’

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, resulting in the death of some 1,200 people and the abduction of 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 over 24,000 people in the Palestinian territory, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Second Israeli investigated

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

Jehezkel 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 sacked Jehezkel, canceling a contract that had been due to run until 2026.

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

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) also condemned what it said was “completely unacceptable behavior” by Jehezkel, calling Antalyaspor’s decision to part ways with its player “appropriate.”

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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