Israeli court convicts soldier of fatally shooting wounded Palestinian assailant

Alicia WestJan 07, 2017

Azaria was tried after a human rights worker filmed him in March fatally shooting a badly wounded Palestinian assailant in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The rare conviction on Wednesday of a soldier for operational conduct has deeply divided Israel and led to an unprecedented campaign in support of 20-year-old Sgt. Elor Azaria and against the military establishment, long the country's most admired body.

No date has yet been announced for sentencing, and Azaria could then appeal.

On his Facebook page, Netanyahu wrote: "I support giving Elor Azaria a pardon".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said the planned conference would fail to resolve the perennial Palestine-Israel conflict.

Human Rights Watch figures show that Israeli forces shot and killed more than 150 Palestinians, while Palestinians have killed 33 Israelis during the same time period.

Prosecutors had argued that al-Sharif "represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present".

For al-Sharif's father, Yousri al-Sharif, it "is an achievement of the court that it condemned the soldier".

But investigators said Azaria was heard saying that the injured man deserved to die.

"We found there was no room to accept his arguments, " said Heller, reading the decision by the three-judge panel in Tel Aviv.

"This government, our government, abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most", said the House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) during his speech to the House of Representatives.

He said: "I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers".

Azaria faces up to 20 years in jail, but legal experts expect the sentence to be shorter.

Since the resolution passed, Netanyahu has been criticized for his aggressive response to the vote, which included accusing Washington of organizing and advancing the resolution; recalling Israel's ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand; summoning the ambassadors of all the UN Security Council states; and calling on ministers to curtail visits to the 14 countries that voted for the measure.

Azaria's demeanour drastically changed as the judge read the verdict. While there are only several hundred Jewish settlers living in the center of Hebron, a city of almost 200,000 Palestinians, they are protected by thousands of Israeli soldiers and often act with impunity.

"For me, a just verdict will be one that is similar to the verdicts our sons (in Israeli prisons) get", Yusri al-Sharif said.

The shooting came during a wave of stabbing, shooting, and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and troops. The violence has subsided in recent months.

Sharon Gal, family spokesman and former lawmaker, told reporters, "It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack". Israel's military has said it believes a significant number of them were essentially on suicide missions.

He added: "The court has made its decision and now we also have a role - to prevent a rift in our society and to ensure no harm comes to the people's army".

"We would have preferred that this didn't happen".

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