Police Source: We Have Lead in Gay-lesbian Center Killings

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Police have a lead in the investigation of the shooting at the gay and lesbian center in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Haaretz learned yesterday.

"This tip has to be examined very carefully. We are still at an early stage in the investigation, and it's too soon to say if this supposition is going to materialize," police sources said.

Besides homophobia, another direction under investigation is that of a personal feud, they added.

Some of the sources criticized the reaction of the leaders of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, who police say rushed to make declarations about incitement being the cause of the murders of the two victims.

"They were too quick with the rallies and the slogans. It's not at all clear - the motive for the attack may have been personal, rather than a general targeting of the community," a senior Tel Aviv police source told Haaretz.

Hundreds of policemen and detectives were in evidence yesterday, trying to trace the escape route of the gunman who killed Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Trobishi, 16, at the Nahmani Street center. Some eyewitness testimonies suggest that he had enough time to changes cartridges during the attack.

"I heard several shots in a row, and then there was a brief pause," said a security guard who worked nearby. "Then there were more shots and the screaming started." Despite being very close to the scene, the guard said he didn't see the shooter flee.

Yesterday, hundreds of people, including many teenagers, converged on the site of the shooting. Ultra-Orthodox residents living nearby also came to express their condolences.

The center itself was still full of evidence of what had occurred just hours earlier, with blood stains on the floor and walls, medical equipment scattered about and disarray.

The basement where the shooting occurred is known as a safe meeting place, and it frequently attracts young Russian-speaking gay and lesbian teenagers.

The director of the Israeli Association for Immigrant Children, Eli Zarkhin, said the facility's discreet location suited the needs of these young people, who are often afraid of the exposure at large clubs in the area. The center also draws Russian-speaking social workers.

"There's no doubt that, considering the hostility in their home community and their families, the situation of young Russian gay people is even more difficult than that of their Israeli-born peers," Zarkhin said.

One of the young people who frequented the place said that many of his friends were wounded in the attack. One of them, he said, never even told his parents he was gay, and they only found out about it when they came to the hospital. The teen added that his friend's parents were as shocked by the revelation as they were by the attack itself.

"It's unbelievable - your son was nearly killed and what you choose to cope with is him being gay!" he said.

"The stairs that lead to this basement are the longest ones in the world, because they lead to the greatest possible mental change a person can ever experience," said one of the directors of the center. "I hope young people won't be afraid to descend this staircase in the future."

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