Six people were stabbed at the Jerusalem pride parade on Thursday evening, police said. The suspected attacker had carried out a similar attack on the parade 10 years ago.
One of the victims, a 17-year-old girl, was in very serious condition after surgery for stab wounds to the chest, though doctors said they hoped her condition would stabilize in the coming hours. A man aged 26, also stabbed in the chest, was in stable condition after surgery, according to Dr. Ofer Merin at Shaare Zedek hospital.
The suspect in the attack, an ultra-Orthodox man who was protesting against the parade, was wrestled to the ground by police and arrested.
He was named as Yishai Schlissel. Police confirmed that Schlissel is the same man who stabbed three marchers in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade in 2005. He was released from jail three weeks ago.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the “despicable hate crime” and vowed to protect the gay and lesbian community.
Channel 2 quoted unnamed sources saying it was clear to some of those who were in contact with Schlissel that he “hadn’t changed” his extremist views. In 2005, he had said he was on a mission from God.
Schlissel had made frequent comments making plain that he remained viciously opposed to the gay and homosexual community. It quoted from a letter Schlissel made public on Saturday castigating the “foul march,” and declaring that it was an “obligation” to risk one’s life in order to thwart it.
Ten days ago, he gave an interview to an ultra-Orthodox media channel in which he said his 2005 attack was “an act of extremism… but this march has to be stopped. The gay community wants to “despoil the people of Israel,” he said.
Jerusalem Police chief Chico Edry said the police had “no advance information” on plans to attack the march. As Edry was speaking to reporters, a protester broke into a TV broadcast to denounce him for failing to prevent the attack. “Shame on the police,” the protester said.
“The writing was on the wall,” Channel 2’s reporter Moshe Nussbaum said. “Everybody knew, except the police… about Shissel’s intentions.”
Schlissel ran at the marchers at the corner of Keren Hayesod and Sokolow Street at about 6.45 p.m. He attacked one person after another until the police reached him, Channel 2 reported.
“It was terrible,” an eyewitness told The Times of Israel.
A witness who identified himself only as Dan said the attacker tried to approach the parade near Paris Square, along the route of the march, but was turned away by police. He then circled back and ran at the crowd screaming near the corner of Washington and Keren Hayesod Streets, in the center of the city, he said.
Pictures of Schlissel shown on Israeli television showed a man in ultra-Orthodox garb with a kitchen knife stabbing participants and then being wrestled to the ground.
Another eyewitness, Adi, told Channel 2 that the man was in his 30s or 40s. “He stabbed some of us… I saw him pinned to the floor by the cops. It was a despicable scene.
Paramedics were at the scene in central Jerusalem providing treatment. The victims were taken to Shaare Zedek and Hadassah hospitals.
Thousands of participants in the 13th annual Jerusalem Pride Parade were making their way down the capital’s Keren Hayesod Street, accompanied by hundreds of police officers guarding the route, when the attack occurred.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the stabbing, saying it was “an attempt to harm the fabric of life in the city and prevent the basic right of freedom of expression.”
“We won’t allow a single excuse for violence of any kind. Jerusalem is a place for all, and we will continue to fight together with the Israel Police against all who attempt violence to harm another,” he said. “We will continue to support all groups and communities in Jerusalem and won’t be deterred by those who try perverse ways to prevent this.”
“Clearly something went wrong here,” said Barkat in reference to the fact that the same attacker was able to again carry out a stabbing. “The police will have to look into this deeply.”
“It’s a most grave incident,” Netanyahu said. “We will mete out justice to those responsible for the act. In the state of Israel freedom of choice of the individual is one of the basic values. We must ensure that in Israel every man and woman will live in security with whichever way they choose to live.”
Ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri said, “We must condemn and denounce all instances of violence and need to wage an all-out war against all who behave with violence against any person because he’s a person.”
Other ultra-Orthodox leaders also condemned the attack.