ISTANBUL/JERUSALEM :Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel left Turkey on Monday, the Turkish government said, after he was questioned by police over a message he displayed on his wrist during a match alluding to the passage of 100 days since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
“Sagiv Jehezkel, the Israeli footballer of Antalyaspor, left our country at 5:15 p.m. (1415 GMT),” Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on social media platform X.
Turkish police had detained Jehezkel overnight and freed him on Monday.
Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc had said prosecutors were investigating Jehezkel on a charge of “inciting people to hatred and hostility” for displaying a note written on his bandaged wrist saying “100 days, 7.10”, alongside a Jewish Star of David emblem.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Turkish authorities released Jehezkel from police custody and that he would return to Israel on Monday, and its defence minister denounced the detention, accusing Turkey of acting like an arm of Hamas.
Jehezkel’s southern Turkish soccer team, Antalyaspor, also said he had been freed and a private jet would take him and his family back to Israel, and that he was being kicked off the team for “acting against the national values.”
Jehezkel, 28, held his clenched fist aloft to display the message after scoring a goal for Antalyaspor against Trabzonspor in Turkey’s Super Lig on Sunday.
Antalya prosecutors launched an investigation into Jehezkel “due to his ugly gesture supporting Israel’s massacre in Gaza after scoring a goal,” Tunc said on social media platform X.
Jehezkel rejected the accusations.
“I did not act to incite or provoke anyone. I am not a pro-war person,” broadcaster NTV reported Jehezkel as saying.
“There are Israeli soldiers held hostage 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 message here,” he was cited as saying through a translator during questioning.
Separately, Istanbul club Basaksehir said it would bring disciplinary action against Israeli midfielder Eden Kartsev for harming “sensitive values” in Turkey. Kartsev was also briefly detained on Monday about a social media post, state media reported.
Militants from Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas stormed through Israeli communities in a surprise cross-border assault on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 240 hostages according to Israeli officials.
The subsequent war reached 100 days on Sunday, with Israeli tanks and aircraft hitting targets in southern and central Gaza amid fierce gunbattles in some areas. The Gaza health ministry said on Monday that 24,100 Palestinians had been killed and nearly 61,000 wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7.
Rallies in support of the hostages still being held in Gaza were held in Israel and elsewhere on Sunday.
‘HYPOCRISY AND INGRATITUDE’
Turkey has been a fierce critic of Israel’s devastating war in Gaza launched in response to the Oct. 7 attack.
After Jehezkel’s detention, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Turkey of serving as a “de facto executive arm of Hamas”.
In a post on X, Gallant reminded Turkey of Israel’s swift assistance provided after last year’s earthquake and called Jehezkel’s treatment “a manifestation of hypocrisy and ingratitude”.
Antalyaspor spokesman, Murat Ozgen, said the club was awaiting court proceedings before terminating the player’s contract.
“I watched with sadness and surprise that Sagiv Jehezkel acted against the sensitivities of Antalya, Antalyaspor and our country,” club Chairman Sinan Boztepe said on X.
(Writing by Daren Butler; editing by Jonathan Spicer, Burcu Karakas, Alex Richardson, Mark Heinrich and Tomasz Janowski)