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Jerusalem Gay Pride: City bolsters security for march and counter-rally

Thousands of people joined this year's Gay Pride march in Jerusalem amid a heavy police presence. Ultra-Orthodox Jews staged a counterdemonstration against same-sex couples' right to adopt.

Hundreds of security personnel were deployed across central Jerusalem on Thursday as the city held its Gay Pride parade. Police said an estimated 10,000 people participated in the parade, which organizers say this year aims to highlight the ties between the LGBTQ community and religion.

Police said more than a thousand officers and security guards were on duty throughout the event. According to Israel's Channel 2 broadcaster, they also issued warnings to some 50 individuals, advising them that no provocations would be tolerated and ordering some to stay away from the city center.

Before the march started, 12 people were taken into custody on suspicion of trying to disrupt the event or cause harm, police said, adding that one person who was detained was carrying a knife.

Police lead Yishai Schlissel away in handcuffs

Yishai Schlissel is serving a life sentence

This year's parade also comes in the wake of recent clashes over the management of the city's controversial holy site, the Temple Mount. The Gay Pride event has long been a source of tension between Jerusalem's secular minority and its Jewish Orthodox population. Many of Israel's strictly religious communities consider homosexuality to be a sin.

At the city's pride march two years ago, 16-year-old Shira Banki was fatally stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who also attacked five other participants.

Police were criticized at the time for failing to stop the perpetrator, Yishai Schlissel, who had also carried out a similar attack on marchers in 2005. He had been released from jail for that crime weeks before carrying out the repeat attack. He is currently serving a life sentence for murdering the teenager.

During this year's parade, many of the revellers laid flowers under a picture of Banki.

The pride event in Jerusalem is small in comparison to the one held each year in the beachside city of Tel Aviv, where 200,000 people took part in June.

Watch video 05:27

Being gay in an ultra-Orthodox community

Right-wing counterdemo

Meanwhile, police granted permission for 100 people from the ultranationalist group Lehava to hold a counterdemonstration several hundred meters away from the Gay Pride march. Their rally, taking place under the slogan "Don't give them children," takes aim at a campaign to give same-sex couples greater adoption rights.  

In Israel, gay and lesbian couples have legally been able to adopt for about 10 years, but only in specific situations. In practice, many homosexual applicants are rejected outright, and can only adopt in cases where no appropriate heterosexual couples can be found.

Gay and lesbian advocacy groups hoping to challenge entrenched discrimination have filed a petition with Israel's Supreme Court. The Israeli government says it opposes any changes to the law, and has stated that allowing same-sex couples to adopt would place an "additional burden" on the child.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, only three same-sex families, two male couples and one female couple have managed to adopt children in Israel since 2008. Over that same period, 1,700 heterosexual couples were able to adopt children.

nm,se/kms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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