Israeli Soldier Gets 18 Months for Killing Wounded Attacker

Updated on
  • Palestinian stabber had been immobilized when he was shot
  • Case split Israeli society, led to rupture in government

A military court sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in jail for killing an immobilized Palestinian attacker, a judgment that exposed deep fault lines in Israeli society.

Elor Azaria, a medic in the military, was convicted in January of killing Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif last March while the Palestinian was lying wounded and immobile on the ground after stabbing a soldier. The judges rejected the idea that Azaria thought the man was wearing a bomb belt or might grab his knife, which was still lying nearby.

The case was controversial, with many Israelis arguing Azaria had acted in self-defense and others saying the army should be held to a high moral code. The controversy contributed to a rupture between then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which culminated in Ya’alon’s resignation.

Netanyahu and many members of his government have called for President Reuven Rivlin to pardon the soldier.

“Israel’s security demands that we give Elor Azaria, who was sent to defend us, an immediate pardon,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on his Twitter account after the sentencing. “Elor shouldn’t sit in jail, because we would all pay the price.”

No Remorse

Azaria’s term is much lower than the maximum possible manslaughter sentence of 20 years, and less than the three to five years the prosecution had sought. He is planning to appeal, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Judge Maya Heller said the court took mitigating factors into account, such as the fact that the incident took place in “hostile territory” in the West Bank flashpoint of Hebron, and what she described as “harm” suffered by Azaria’s family. On the other hand, she noted, Azaria hadn’t expressed remorse for his actions, according to details of the hearing from a press pool report.

Azaria also was demoted from sergeant to private as part of the sentence. His family showed no emotion as the sentence was announced, according to the pool report.

“None of us have any expectations, we will accept the sentence whatever it may be,” Charley Azaria, the soldier’s father, said before the ruling. He called on his son’s supporters, who staged large public demonstrations after the conviction in January, not to cause disruptions.

(Adds government minister’s quote in fourth paragraph.)
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