Participants attacked during LGBT event in West Bank settlement

Suspects, reportedly dressed like the ultranationalist ‘hilltop youth,’ are still at large after shooting pepper spray, throwing eggs at participants in Ariel, injuring three

Three Ariel pride particapants are tended to after being doused with pepper spray on July 8, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Three Ariel pride particapants are tended to after being doused with pepper spray on July 8, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Three participants at an LGBT event in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on Thursday were attacked by unknown assailants, who doused them with pepper spray and threw eggs at them.

Police said the participants were lightly injured and that it had launched a manhunt for the suspects, who remained at large.

Organizers of the event, the first of its kind in the settlement, told the Kan public broadcaster that the suspects looked like “hilltop youth,” ultranationalist settlers who illegally establish outposts throughout the West Bank and have been known to attack Palestinians and Israeli law enforcement officers.

The Ariel municipality said in a statement that the event had been privately organized. “Unfortunately, unidentified foreign elements attacked the participants and threw objects at them. The municipality strongly condemns the attack,” the municipality said.

Like many towns in the Israeli periphery, LGBTQ acceptance in the settlements has been slower than in bigger cities like Tel Aviv. Those living behind the Green Line are also more likely to be socially conservative, adding an additional strain on those struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity. However, progress has been made in recent years, including support groups for LGBT children and their parents in one large settlement southeast of Jerusalem.

Pride parades in Israel are held under heavy police presence, particularly since 2015, when an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed and killed 16-year-old Shira Banki during the parade in Jerusalem.

While securing the Tel Aviv pride parade last month, police said they arrested roughly 50 suspects, including several who allegedly sought to harm the tens of thousands of participants at the mass festival.

Among those who were nabbed was a man from Tel Aviv, who police said was planning to attack participants. The man was caught with a taser, nunchucks and other items.

Another six people were also arrested on suspicion that they had plotted to attack marchers, including two who were operating drones.

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