JERUSALEM — An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who had recently been released from prison after serving 10 years for stabbing participants in the annual Gay Pride Parade here in 2005 struck again on Thursday, stabbing and wounding six marchers in this year’s parade, according to the police.
Two of the victims were in serious condition, according to the emergency services. The assailant, Yishai Schlissel, was pinned to the ground on a central Jerusalem street and arrested by police officers who were stationed along the route, the police said.
Mr. Schlissel wounded three marchers a decade ago and was convicted of attempted murder. He was said to have told the police that he had come “to kill in the name of God.” The Israeli news media reported that he was released from prison three weeks ago.
Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride Parade has long stirred strong emotions in the city, with many Orthodox Jews objecting to the public display, saying that it defiles the city and offends many of its residents. An ultra-Orthodox news website referred to it on Thursday as “the Parade of Abomination.” There has also been criticism from Muslim and Christian quarters in the past.
In some years, Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade, a smaller event than the annual parade in Tel Aviv, has gone ahead as a result of a court order over the objections of the City Council. It has occasionally been confined to a stadium as a compromise.
But Israeli officials often hold up the country’s record of tolerance toward gay and lesbian citizens as a badge of honor and as evidence of Israeli democracy, pointing out that other governments in the region are more oppressive.
“Freedom of individual choice is one of the fundamental values of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement condemning Thursday’s attack. “We must ensure that every man and woman in Israel lives in security in any way they choose.”
Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said in a statement: “The criminal act this evening in Jerusalem is an attempt to disrupt social life in the city and to suppress the basic human right of freedom of expression. We will not tolerate any excuse for violence of any kind.”
He added, “We will continue to staunchly support all of Jerusalem’s communities and groups.”
An eyewitness, Noa Zinger, told Israeli television that she had felt someone pushing and then seen an ultra-Orthodox man stabbing someone next to her. “He told us to get out of the way so that he could escape,” she said.
Asi Aharoni, a spokesman for the Jerusalem police, said the police had prepared meticulously for this year’s parade with a large presence along the route, including officers on horseback and special forces. “But to our regret, despite the massive police presence, a man succeeded in breaking through the lines and stabbing marchers,” he said.
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(via NY Times)