JERUSALEM – Israel’s gay community came under attack Thursday evening, after a Jewish extremist stabbed six people during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
Israeli police said the assailant, who was apprehended at the scene, was the same attacker who stabbed three people at one of the first gay pride events in the city 10 years ago. He was identified as Yishai Shlissel. Israeli media reported that Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, had recently been released from prison after serving time for the previous stabbings.
Israel’s first aid agency said one of the stabbing victims was critically wounded.
Unlike in Tel Aviv, where the annual pride parade is among the biggest events in the region, the Jerusalem march often draws controversy, creating tension among more conservative elements in the city and those who reject the idea of homosexuality.
Earlier Thursday, the ultranationalist Jewish group Lehava, whose members were behind a recent arson attack on a Jewish-Arab bilingual school in Jerusalem, had threatened to stop the parade from going ahead. Lehava representative Meir David Koperschmidt told The Jerusalem Post that homosexuality was prohibited according to Judaism.
Israeli officials and some religious leaders immediately condemned Thursday’s stabbings. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack a hate crime and welcomed the condemnation by religious leaders in Israel.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called the stabbing a “criminal act” and said it was “an attempt to disrupt social life in the city and to suppress the basic human right of freedom of expression.”
“In Jerusalem, there is a place for everyone,” he said, “and together with the Israeli Police we will continue to target anyone who violently attempts to hurt others.”
Jerusalem Police spokesman Assi Aharoni said there had been a high level of police deployed in the city ahead of the parade but that many people were standing along the route watching.
“Despite the large number of police, one man managed to break through and do this,” said Aharoni.
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