Tel Aviv: A lay leader of Israel`s Christian minority was stabbed to death during an Orthodox Christmas procession by a person dressed as Santa Claus, his church said.
Police were searching for suspects in Friday`s murder of Gabi Kadees in Jaffa, a predominantly Arab port district of Tel Aviv, but said there was no indication of a sectarian motive.
Kadees, the head of Jaffa`s communal Orthodox Association, was stabbed in the back during a parade marking Jesus` birth according to the Eastern church calendar, Israeli media said.
The assailant, who slipped away in the crowd, wore a Santa Claus costume, senior Greek Orthodox cleric Atallah Hanna said.
"He also killed our Christmas joy, and also killed the human and spiritual values embodied by Santa Claus -- who makes children happy on Christmas Eve," Hanna said.
Christians make up fewer than five percent of the population of the Jewish state, whose biggest minority is Muslim. Jaffa has seen some mob violence as well as tensions between long-time Arab residents and Jews.
Luba Samri, a police spokeswoman, said that while all angles of the murder were being investigated there was "nothing to suggest a nationalistic motive" -- Israel`s term for crimes along political, religious or sectarian lines.