Gay Center Attack Top Cop: Shooting May Not Have Been Hate Crime

Police Commissioner David Cohen called on the public not to blame specific sectors of the community for the attack Saturday night on a gay community center in Tel Aviv. Two people were killed in the armed assault - Nir Katz, 26, of Givatayim and Liz Trobishi,16, of Holon - and fifteen others were injured.

Cohen hinted that the attack may not have been a hate crime against homosexuals. At a meeting yesterday assessing the status of the case, he cautioned against implicating segments of the society "regarding suspicions and possible directions [of the investigation]."

The police presence in the area around the Tel Aviv community center has remained heavy since the attack, as detectives look for evidence which the assailant may have left behind and question potential eyewitnesses in the area. Among the angles the police are exploring is the possibility that the attack was prompted by a personal dispute. A source involved in the investigation noted that "there is no clear evidence at this stage indicating that this was a hate crime." Other sources said the investigation was expected to be lengthy.

Four victims of the attack still remain in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. One of the four is listed in serious condition, two in moderate condition, and one is suffering light injuries. Or Gil, who was wounded in the shoulder and leg, said yesterday that "to be attacked is a horrible feeling ... but the [gay] community will not surrender to this act."

With regard to his friends who were also hospitalized, Gil said that it was a very difficult way for some of their families to discover they were homosexual: "It is a very hard way to come out of the closet." He asked the parents of those who were injured to support their children, and worry about their medical condition rather than their sexual orientation.

Gil told reporters that a masked man dressed in black entered the center. At first he thought it was a prank, but then the intruder started shooting. Gil recounted how people hid under tables and a bed, but there were no screams. Many members of the gay and lesbian community visited the victims at Ichilov Hospital yesterday. Among them was Thomas Schmidt, whose partner, Nir Katz, was killed in the attack. Yuval Goren, Ofri Ilani and Noah Kosharek contributed to this report.