JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police said on Thursday they have thwarted another attack on Jerusalem’s annual gay pride march that was plotted by the extremist ultra-Orthodox Jew already in prison for last year’s deadly attack.
Yishai Schlissel is serving a life sentence for his 2015 stabbing spree in which he killed a 16-year-old girl and wounded seven other people. That attack came shortly after he had been released from prison after serving a sentence for stabbing several people at the 2005 pride march.
Police say that even behind bars, Schlissel has been plotting to further harm gay pride participants. Schlissel was taken for questioning from his cell and his brother, Michael, was arrested as an accomplice.
“We have thwarted and prevented attempts to harm people during the march. The march will take place as planned and without change,” said Jerusalem district police commander Yoram Halevi. He did not elaborate.
The heavily secured march has been a point of contentions for years in this deeply divided city.
Known for its rich religious history and tradition, Jerusalem holds a modest gay pride parade annually, in contrast to the raucous one in the liberal Israeli city of Tel Aviv, which this year drew some 200,000 people.
Even so, it has faced much resistance from ultra-Orthodox extremists who have protested it and deemed it an “abomination.”
In recent days, rabbis have spoken out against the gay community and protests are expected Thursday. Police are promising unprecedented security for the march, with some 2,000 officers deployed to secure its route. The American Consulate is advising U.S. citizens to exercise caution at the march.
Jerusalem’s secular Mayor Nir Barkat said this week that while the gay community has the right to march, he will forgo the event to because it is offensive to the city’s many religious residents. Responding to criticism from the gay community, Barkat laid flowers on Thursday at the site where 16-year-old Shira Banki was killed.
“I understand the pain and criticism of those who do not agree with my decision not to participate in the parade,” he said in a statement. “I chose a different way to honor the memory of Shira Banki, a sweet girl who was murdered because of hatred.”