The search for last Sunday’s gunman, who attacked the heart of Tel Aviv’s gay community, continues. Killing 2 and wounding 13, the killer was alone, dressed in black and carried a handgun.
A support centre for Israel’s LGBT youth was the target – the attacker fired during a weekly gathering of gay teens. Anon Shabatil, owner of local gay bar Evita, heard the shots and expressed shock at such an attack, BBC reports.
Many at the meeting were teenagers, and for safety, police have closed down all neighbouring bars and clubs. The gay community has condemned it as the worst hate crime against them.
Police have ruled out any Palestinian or external involvement, according to BBC correspondents.
Yaniv Weizmann, head of Israel’s LGBT Community and advisor to Tel Aviv’s mayor, adds that the attacker must be close to the community. He would know the weak spots to attack – the centre is in a basement and surrounding bars are hidden to those unfamiliar with them.
In a press conference, President Shimon Peres stated, “The bullets that hit the gay community at the beginning of the week struck us all as people, as Jews, as Israelis…criminals will not set our agenda.”
Reuters correspondent Ohad Asseo witnessed a candlelight memorial service of thousands in Rabin Square; all blamed Israeli religious groups and parties. According to Weizmann, 10% of Israel’s 7.5 million are openly gay.
Yanon Arad, one of the protesters, also expressed his shock. He says the gay community is well accepted and welcomed in Tel Aviv, unlike in more Orthodox cities like Jerusalem. The rainbow flag, symbol of the community, flies proudly in several of the city’s streets.
In Israel, gay people serve openly in the military, and same-sex couples are given some legal recognition and cohabitation rights.
The victims of the attack were a 26-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl, Reuters reports. The gunman was purposely targetting this hidden centre; he didn’t have specific targets in mind, as demonstrated by his random firing into the crowd, a police spokesperson commented.
Witnesses and members of the gay community in Tel Aviv have expressed their shock and sorrow that such an attack should happen in their city, formerly a safe-haven for Israeli gays. That safety net has been torn, to some extent.
This is the real tragedy, that in a place where the community feels protected and is treated well, this peace should be disrupted.