Tel Aviv – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has joined the chorus of right wing Israelis calling on the Israeli president to pardon a soldier convicted of manslaughter after shooting dead an already neutralized Palestinian attacker last March.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Sgt. Elor Azaria had violated the military’s open fire regulations when he shot dead Abdel Fattah Sharif, who had attacked IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Hundreds of far-right protesters rallied in support of Azaria and some clashed with police outside an army base, where the lengthy verdict was read out.
At the time of the fatal shooting in the head, which was captured on camera, the Palestinian assailant had already been immobilized and posed no danger to the public or the Israeli soldier, contrary to defense claims, which said that Sharif posed an immediate danger.
A Palestinian rights activist caught the shooting on video, and the footage, distributed to news organizations, ensured the incident drew international attention.
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, in which it slammed Azaria’s “mock” trial, calling it a “farce,” the official Wafa news agency reported.
“The ministry added that not only Azaria ought to stand trial, but also the entire Israeli regime for allowing the killing of Palestinians,” it added.
At the trial, Azaria contended that he believed the Palestinian, though motionless, still posed a danger because his knife was nearby, and that he might have been carrying explosives. “He deserves to die,” Azaria was quoted in the verdict as telling another soldier after pulling the trigger.
The three-judge panel rejected Azaria’s argument.
“One cannot use this type of force, even if we’re talking about an enemy’s life,” the court said in its verdict. “We unanimously convict the accused of manslaughter and of conduct unbecoming (a soldier)”, it added.