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New twist on terror in Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM — Two people were killed on Saturday night, Aug. 1, and several others were injured when a gunman burst into the basement of a homosexual community center in Tel Aviv just off Rothschild Blvd., and opened fire with a machine gun.

The gunman entered the club and began firing randomly as youths dove for cover, said Ori Gil, 26, in an interview with Israel reporters from a hospital wheelchair.

The bodies of two casualties — Nir Katz, 26, a counselor at the center, and Liz Tarboushi, 17 — were found in the center by paramedics.

The injured were rushed to the Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv.

Two victims are in critical condition, while three additional people are in moderate condition, Magen David Adom paramedics said. Several more were lightly wounded.

Police launched a massive manhunt for the perpetrator, who, according to eyewitnesses, was dressed in black.

In addition to a hate crime, investigators are checking to see whether the attack may have been the result of a personal quarrel or even Arab terrorism.

There is a gag order in place on the investigation. Read the related IJN editorial

Following the attack, large numbers of emergency vehicles converged on the scene, and patrol cars could be seen scouring the area for the gunman.

A police crime scene investigation unit entered the building and began gathering evidence.

Hundreds of local residents gathered around police lines; many wandered around the scene looking shocked.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said police have stepped up security around other homosexual centers and potential targets.

“This is a most severe incident. The police are investing major resources and means to capture this murderer and his accomplices,” Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said, speaking from the murder scene.

PRIME Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack at the start of Sunday morning’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Aug. 2.

“I strongly condemn the shocking murders that were perpetrated last night in Tel Aviv,” he said. “This morning I spoke with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. 

“I fully back the police in their search to find the murderer. We will bring him to justice and treat him with the utmost severity of the law.

“I would like to take this opportunity to remind all Israelis that ours is a democratic state. We are a nation of law,” Netanyahu said. “Ours is a country built on tolerance, and we must respect all people as they are.”

Within a couple of hours of the attack, people gathered with placards and candles to protest the killings. “Love is allowed, killing is forbidden,” one sign read. Hanging alongside it was a flower wreath courtesy of the Tel Aviv municipality

The Shas faction released a statement following the shooting in which it called for the attacker “to be found and tried. Murder is of course against the Torah’s path and every attack is a contravention of the religion of Israel.”

Two of the Shas faction’s Knesset members had been a focus of controversy for statements that some blamed for inciting such an attack.

Meretz MK Nitzan Horovitz arrived at the scene of the shooting. “There has been non-stop incitement,” he said.

“I very much hope this is not the result of comments made by public figures and Knesset members. They need to understand that some people will take action,” Horovitz added.

Demonstrations spread to Haifa in the north and Beersheba in the south, as well as to Jerusalem’s Zion Square. Vigils took place in the US.

On Sunday evening, some 500 people turned out to demonstrate against hatred and violence at the rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square.

News of the vigil spread by word of mouth, through phones and text messages, and people arrived carrying signs that read “Why Kill?” and “Stop baseless hatred.”

Others lit candles in memory of those who died in the attack as the somber crowd milled about.

Alex, a recent immigrant from Brazil, told the Jerusalem Post that while the attack was disturbing, he found solace in the fact that so many people had turned out to express their sorrow and dismay.

Still, some passersby were visibly upset by the gathering, engaging in minor spats with participants or shaking their heads as they walked by.

“Can you tell me, are we in Jerusalem?” one young man asked. “I thought this was supposed to be a holy city.”

One older man, with a kippah on his head and snuff stains around his mustache said, “Look, in theory I’m against all of this, but killing another person? There’s no excuse for it.”

Jerusalem Post correspondent Abe Selig, JTA and New York Jewish Week contributed to this report, edited by IJN.

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