An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man attacked revelers taking part in Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade on Thursday, stabbing and injuring six of them, police and witnesses said.
Police identified the suspect as Yishai Schlissel, who carried out a similar attack on a gay pride parade in 2005 and was released from jail three weeks ago, local media reported. The suspect was subdued by an officer who pinned him to the ground.
It was the worst attack on Israel’s gay community since 2009, when a gunman killed two people and injured 11 at a center for gay and lesbian youth in Tel Aviv.
A colorful crowd of thousands was marching through the streets of downtown Jerusalem when a man emerged from a supermarket and started stabbing participants, witnesses said.
Photographs showed him brandishing a knife in the air as he charged into a group of young people. Friends administered first aid to the victims, who lay on the blood-spattered ground as ambulances weaved through the crowd to reach them.
Two young people, a man and a woman, were seriously injured in the attack, according to Israel’s emergency medical service.
Tel Aviv has emerged as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Middle East, but Jerusalem is more conservative. The annual pride parade has drawn opposition from religious extremists and ultranationalists in the holy city who view homosexuality as blasphemy and an abomination.
Police officials said a massive force was deployed to protect this year’s event, but the assailant managed to evade detection until marchers passed by the store where he was hiding, according to news reports.
The attack drew condemnation from human rights activists, religious leaders and government officials across the political spectrum.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the stabbings a “despicable hate crime.”
“Everyone in Israel, including the gay community, has the right to live in safety and we will defend this right,” he said in a statement.
President Reuven Rivlin said intolerance would be the ruin of Israeli society. “We cannot allow such crimes and must condemn those who commit and support them,” he said.
Thousands of residents who had not initially taken part in the parade joined in after the attack in a show of solidarity, the Associated Press reported.
But Oded Fried, who heads a leading gay rights group, said the stabbings had shaken the community’s fragile sense of security.
The attack “on a parade meant to convey acceptance and love” was “maddening, frightening and makes us think where we go from here,” he told Israeli television.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.