JERUSALEM – An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man attacked revelers taking part in Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade Thursday, stabbing and injuring six of them, police and witnesses said.
Police identified the assailant 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 others 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 the suspect 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 delivered first aid to the victims, who lay on the 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.
While Tel Aviv has emerged as one of the more gay-friendly cities in the Middle East, Jerusalem is more conservative. The annual pride parade has drawn opposition in the holy city from religious extremists and ultranationalists who view homosexuality as 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.
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.