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Police search for Tel Aviv gay club shooter

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of police officers were scouring the streets of Tel Aviv on Sunday in a door-to-door manhunt for a gunman who opened fire on a gay youth club.

A masked man entered a club for gay teens late Saturday, pulled out a pistol and shot in all directions, killing two and injuring 11, police said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man then holstered his pistol and fled the scene by foot to the busy streets of Tel Aviv.

Nitzan Horowitz, Israel's only openly gay lawmaker, said the attack had all the symptoms of a "hate crime."

"This is the worst attack ever against the gay community in Israel," he said. "This act was a blind attack against innocent youths, and I expect the authorities to exercise all means in apprehending the shooter."

Gays and lesbians enjoy great freedom and liberties in Israel. Tel Aviv in particular is one of the more liberal cities in the world — it holds a festive annual gay parade, rainbow flags are often seen waved from apartment windows and the there is even a city-sponsored open house for the community.

However, ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders often incite against the community. In conservative Jerusalem, clashes have been frequent between religious and gay activists. In 2005, for instance, an ultra-Orthodox protester stabbed three marchers at a Jerusalem gay parade.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a frequent critic gays in Israel, issued a statement condemning Saturday's attack.

The covers of Sunday's newspapers all featured photos of the bloodstained floors of the youth club and headlines such as "Massacre of the Proud Youth" and "Terror Against the Proud Community."