Local media reports say the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan has repeatedly been closed in 2011 due to an increase in anti-Zionist sentiments in the former Soviet republic. The Yeni Musavat daily said on Friday that the Israeli Embassy in Baku had closed several times this year due to fears of attacks. However, both Azeri officials and media remained tight-lipped about the incidents. The report recalled that the first closure dated back to February 14. It also said that the latest suspension of activities occurred on April 22 and following a warning from Israeli intelligence services about possible attacks on the office.
Security has been tightened around the Israeli Embassy, the Azeri paper noted, estimating the number of security forces guarding the Israeli office at four times the number of guards at the adjacent Japanese Embassy. Israel has been facing growing criticism and resentment from the Muslim majority population in Azerbaijan over the devastating war it waged on Lebanon in 2006 and the killing of over 1,400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. The war crimes were yet topped by Tel Aviv's deadly attack on a Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010, when Israeli commandos launched an offensive on the aid convoy in international waters.
On the international Quds Day last year, tens of thousands of Azeri protesters assembled in front of the Israeli Embassy in Baku, demanding the closure of the office and the severance of all Azeri-Israeli ties. The anti-Israeli sentiments in Azerbaijan have escalated to an unprecedented peak given revelations of Tel Aviv's active role in the anti-hijab and Islamophobia campaigns in the ex-Soviet state. The wave of Islamic awakening uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East has further encouraged anti-Israeli movements in Azerbaijan.