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August 3, 2009

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Gunman kills two at gay club in Tel Aviv

HUNDREDS of police officers scoured the streets of Tel Aviv yesterday in a manhunt for a gunman who shot and killed two people at a youth club in the worst ever attack on homosexuals in Israel.

The Tel Aviv shooting shocked the Mediterranean city, which prides itself on its live-and-let-live attitude and boasts a thriving gay community. The brazen attack drew condemnations from the city's mayor, from Cabinet ministers, the country's chief rabbis and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We'll bring him to justice and exercise the full extent of the law against him," Netanyahu said of the killer, speaking at the Israeli Cabinet's weekly meeting.

A masked man entered the center for gay teens in downtown Tel Aviv late on Saturday night, pulled out a pistol and opened fire, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. The shooter then concealed his weapon and fled on foot into the busy streets outside, Rosenfeld said.

The dead were identified as a 26-year-old man who was a counselor at the center and a 17-year-old girl. Eleven people were wounded, four of them seriously.

"I took cover with someone under a table, and he kept firing," 16-year-old Or Gil, who was shot twice in the legs, recounted in news footage aired on the YNet news Website.

"When I got up it was horrifying, I just saw blood," he said. Photographs of the scene showed bodies lying near a billiard table and a smear of blood on the white-tile floor.

Jonathan Bower, 23, said he had been at the club before the attack and was outside when the shots began.

"One of my friends came out shouting and screaming, 'he has a gun, he has a gun'," followed by a group of girls who escaped the building and urged Bower to run away, he said. The girls told him the shooter was wearing a ski mask.

Nitzan Horowitz, Israel's only openly gay lawmaker, called the attack a "hate crime."


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