MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - Israel's president and premier have condemned Saturday night's shooting at a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv, in which two people died and 15 were injured.
Police are continuing their search for a masked man who opened fire with a pistol on a crowd of people gathered outside the center in central Tel Aviv late in the evening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: "I want to condemn this shocking murder."
"I want to say to the citizens of Israel - we are a democratic and tolerant country and we must respect every person as he is."
President Shimon Peres called the attack "the kind of murder that an enlightened and cultured people cannot accept," and urged the country to "unite in condemning this heinous act."
The Jerusalem Post said Defense Minister Ehud Barak had told police to "go out of their way to suppress this type of criminal action."
Hundreds of police officers are currently engaged in a manhunt for the killer. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told reporters that the man, dressed in black, had fled the scene on foot.
The victims have been identified as a 26-year-old man, who worked as a counselor at the center, and a 17-year-old girl.
News of the attack prompted a street demonstration late on Saturday, in which hundreds of people carried banners accusing the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, known for its criticism of gays in Israel, of stoking hatred against homosexuals, the Haaretz daily reported.
The party released a statement denouncing "without reservation the murderous incident that targeted Tel Aviv's gay community."