Antalyaspor's Israeli forward Jehezkel
Antalyaspor's Israeli forward Jehezkel displayed a bandage on the Gaza war after scoring a goal DHA (Demiroren News Agency) via AFP / Handout

Top-tier Turkish club Antalyaspor suspended their Israeli striker Sagiv Jehezkel for taking the opportunity after scoring a goal to show off a message of support to Israeli hostages that are still being held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. He was arrested and briefly detained by police on Sunday and, has now returned to Israel following his suspension.

Jehezkel had a bandage on his wrist where he wrote the message: "100 days, 7/10."

He showed off the bandage after scoring in the 68th minute in Antalyaspor's match against Trabzonspor last Sunday. It was a crucial equaliser after the visitors took the lead early in the second minute of the match. While celebrating his goal, Jehezkel approached a camera and held up his arm to display his wrist and the message written on the bandage.

The date, 7/10, refers to the October 7, 2023 attacks launched by Hamas terrorists on Israeli towns located near the border to the Gaza Strip. They massacred innocent civilians, mostly young revelers at a music festival that was ongoing that day. They also killed residents of nearby Jewish settlements, including the elderly, women and babies.

Hamas took 240 hostages from Israel that day, not all of whom were Israeli or Jewish. 132 are thought to still be held in Gaza, and it is unclear how many of those remain alive. One hundred and five civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a one-week truce in November, while another four were freed earlier. IDF troops were also able to rescue one individual.

The first part of Jehezkel's message, "100 days", refers to the number of days that those hostages have been held captive.

Thanks to this message of support, the footballer was arrested and although he has now been released, it is unclear if he will face any formal charges. Nevertheless, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has at least confirmed that Jehezkel is safe and is back in Israel.

However, Antalyaspor Deputy Chairman Alkan Evren confirmed that the club is determined to terminate the player's contract. In quotes carried by CNN, Jehezel reportedly said in a police report: "I did not act to provoke anybody. I want the war to end. This is why I showed that sign."

The 28-year-old was immediately suspended by Antalyaspor through a decision made by their board of directors on the grounds of acting against "national values". An official statement from the club said: "Our Board of Directors will never allow behavior against the sensitivities of our country, even if it results in a championship or a cup."

Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç even accused Jehezkel of "supporting Israel's massacre in Gaza".

The match eventually ended in a 1-1 draw, with Jehezkel scoring Antalyaspor's lone goal. He was able to keep them from dropping two points, but the club made it clear that the right-winger can't be cut any slack.

So far in the ongoing 2023-24 campaign, Jehezkel has contributed six goals and recorded two assists in 13 matches for Antalyaspor.

The club mistakenly shared a social media post following Jehezkel's goal, with a photo of the player and his message clearly visible. The club later deleted the post and Antalyaspor President Sinan Boztepe was forced to clarify the incident. He said: "The instant post after his goal was shared on our club's official social media accounts, and the issue was noticed immediately. It has been removed. I would like the public to know that I will not allow such behavior during my term as president, no matter what great success will come in the end."

This isn't the first time that a footballer has landed in hot water due to the Israel-Gaza conflict. Eden Karzev, another Israeli playing in Turkey, is facing a disciplinary investigation by Istanbul Basaksehir due to a social media post that the club found to be offensive. He reportedly posted a similar message asking for the return of the Israeli hostages that are still being held in Gaza.