Three days after being critically wounded by an ultra-Orthodox man that went on a stabbing rampage at Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade, Shira Banki, a 16-year-old Israeli teen succumbed to her wounds Sunday afternoon. Five other people were wounded in the attack.
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Police confirmed that the suspected stabber is Yishai Schlissel, a Haredi man from Modiin Ilit who stabbed three participants in the 2005 Gay Pride march. He was recently released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence.
Banki was a high-school student from Jerusalem, studying at the Hebrew University High School. She took part in Thursday's parade to show solidarity with her LGBT friends. She is survived by her parents and three siblings; her family decided to donate her organs.
In a statement issued Sunday, her family said: "Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old – full of life and love – who came to express her support for her friends' rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short. Bad things happen to good people, and a very bad thing happened to our amazing girl. The family expresses hope for a less hatred and more tolerance." The family requests the public respect their privacy as they grieve.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to Banki's family, and said she died "because she bravely supported everyone's right to live their life in dignity and security." "We will not allow a despicable killer to undermine the shared values underpinning Israeli society," he added. "We vehemently reject that attempt to spread hatred and violence and will work to prosecute the murderer to the full extent of the law."
As of Sunday afternoon two of those wounded in the attack alongside Banki were still in serious condition and remained hospitalized, though medical officials said their condition was improving. Three of the other people wounded in the attack were released home after suffering lighter injuries.
Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) also issued a statement, saying Banki was a victim of "Jewish terror". "I cry for Shira she is the age of my children. We will not tolerate violence, racism or LGBT-phobia of any kind," he said, reiterating his demand that the prime minister outlaw extreme right-wing groups which he said "incite hatred" in Israel.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) said in a statement: "It's a dark day for Israel in which a high school girl is murdered for her opinions and positions." "There is no principle in the world worth the life of a young girl," said Bennett, who was supposed to address an LGBT rally Saturday evening, but canceled after refusing to sign a commitment to act on behalf of the gay community. This is "a day in which we became darkness unto the nations instead of a being light unto the nations," he added.
On Saturday, thousands of Israelis took to the streets to protest the stabbing as well as a deadly arson attack in the West Bank that saw a Palestinian infant killed. "Flames have engulfed our country," President Reuven Rivlin said at the rally in Jerusalem's Zion Square. "Flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs."
An estimated 10,000 people turned up for a rally in Tel Aviv's Gan Meir, which was already planned to mark six years since two people were killed in a shooting at Barnoar, a Tel Aviv gay youth center. Former Israeli president Shimon Peres was also in attendance.
The attacker, Schlissel, was sentenced for 12 years in prison for the 2005 attack after his conviction on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault. However, in 2007, following an appeal, the Supreme Court mitigated his sentence to 10 years. He was deemed sane and fit to face trial on Friday.
After his release, Schlissel returned to his hometown, where residents said that he distributed hand-written pamphlets in which he called on "all Jews faithful to God" to risk "beatings and imprisonment" for the sake of preventing the parade.