Turkey issues penalties for Israeli footballers due to messages on Hamas hostages

Sagiv Jehezkel

The Turkish Football Federation’s disciplinary committee has imposed penalties on two Israeli footballers and their former teams who both left Turkey earlier this month after their messages on Israeli hostages at the hands of Hamas drew the ire of Turkish authorities, Turkish Minute reported.

An eight-match ban was imposed on Sagiv Jehezkel, a former Antalyaspor player, and Eden Kartsev, previously with Başakşehirspor, on the grounds that they were involved in “ideological propaganda.”

Antalyaspor and Başakşehir, both first division clubs, were also slapped with TL 97,500 ($3,200) fines due to the actions of their former footballers.

The two footballers faced accusations of supporting Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza, which have reportedly claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people since Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel.

In retaliation for Hamas’s attacks, which left around 1,200 people dead, Israel has been pounding Gaza with air and ground strikes, with some countries such as Turkey accusing it of committing “genocide” and “war crimes” in Gaza.

Jehezkel was briefly detained and charged with incitement to hatred for holding 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.

The message on Jehezkel’s bandage referred to the 100 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which was marked on January 14, the day of the match.

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.”

He left Turkey after appearing in court and his release pending trial the next day.

During questioning by the police, Jehezkel said he wanted to call attention to the hostages taken by Hamas and in no way intended to support the war, saying that he is not a “pro-war” person.

Kartsev drew ire for reposting a social media message also calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Başakşehir launched disciplinary proceedings against the defensive midfielder after he shared a message reading “Bring Them Home Now,” in reference to the Israeli hostages.

Başakşehir took Kartsev on loan from Israeli outfit Maccabi Tel Aviv last year. He returned to the Tel Aviv side for the remainder of the season following the outrage in Turkey.

The treatment received by the Israeli footballers in Turkey angered the Israeli authorities, leading to accusations that Turkey was “acting like the executive branch of Hamas.”

Anti-Israeli sentiment is running high in Turkey over the scale of death and destruction in Gaza.

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