Turkish Court Releases Israeli Soccer Player Detained for Displaying Controversial Message During Match

Istanbul – An Israeli soccer player, Sagiv Jehezkel, has been released pending trial by a Turkish court after being detained for displaying a message related to the Israel-Hamas war during a match. Jehezkel, 28, celebrated scoring a goal for Antalyaspor against Trabzonspor on Sunday by showing a bandage on his wrist with the text “100 days. 07/10” next to a Star of David. Turkish prosecutors launched a criminal investigation, accusing Jehezkel of “incitement to hate,” and his club terminated his contract for engaging in behavior that was deemed insensitive to Turkey.

Jehezkel and his family are expected to return to Israel, as a private plane was sent from the country to pick them up. The arrest of Jehezkel sparked intense criticism from top Israeli officials, further straining relations between the two nations. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant condemned the arrest, calling it a “scandalous” expression of hypocrisy by Turkey. Gallant pointed out that Israel had promptly offered aid to Turkey after a devastating earthquake but now accused Turkey of serving as the executive arm of Hamas for detaining the soccer player.

During interrogation, Jehezkel stated that he did not intend to provoke anyone and affirmed that he was not in favor of war. His message on the bandage referred to the 100 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which occurred on Sunday. In October 2023, Hamas militants launched an attack in Israel, resulting in numerous casualties and abductions. In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a military campaign that has caused a significant loss of life in the Palestinian territory.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a vocal critic of Israel, particularly regarding the scale of death and destruction in Gaza. Jehezkel, who joined the Antalyaspor club in September, stated that he did not intend to get involved in politics and had been respectful of Turkish cultural sensitivities. He explained that his intention was to draw attention to the need for an end to the war and the release of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza.

Antalyaspor announced the termination of Jehezkel’s contract, citing his behavior as contradictory to the values of their country. The Turkish Football Federation also condemned Jehezkel’s actions, describing them as completely unacceptable, and supported the club’s decision to exclude him from the team. Additionally, Istanbul’s top-flight side Basaksehir initiated a disciplinary investigation into another Israeli player, Eden Karzev, for reposting a social media message related to the hostages.

The release of Jehezkel comes against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between Israel and Turkey, with each side expressing strong criticisms and grievances. The incident involving the Israeli soccer player highlights the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict, which continues to impact various aspects of international relations.