Verdict Determined for IDF Soldier Who Shot Palestinian Terrorist

Alicia WestJan 06, 2017

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said IDF soldiers must "remain above all conflict" (including, apparently, the one they are now fighting), and therefore Azaria should be pardoned for his crime.

Al-Sharif and another Palestinian his age were shot while carrying out a stabbing attack on an Israeli soldier guarding a West Bank checkpoint in Hebron.

"For me, a just verdict will be one that is similar to the verdicts our sons (in Israeli prisons) get", Yusri al-Sharif, the father of the Palestinian, told reporters in the West Bank city of Hebron, where the shooting occurred.

Footage of the incident appeared to show the Palestinian motionless. Lawyers for the defense argued that Azaria believed Sharif may have been wearing a concealed explosive vest and that he was acting in self defense. The judge, Col. Maya Heller said his testimony was "evolving and evasive".

On Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters scuffled with police as they gathered outside Israel's military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the verdict was announced. Soldiers are popular in Israeli society, and widely supported.

Israel has arrested two people for threatening judges as tensions have risen in the country after a military court in convicted a French-Israeli soldier of manslaughter for his March 2016 killing of a 21-year old Palestinian assailant.

Right-wing politicians and hundreds of Azaria's supporters have insisted he was treated unfairly by left-wing elites in the army and media. "I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers".

Israel's defense minister at the time, Moshe Yaalon said Azaria's actions were "an utter breach of the army's values and its code of ethics in combat".

A poll conducted by the Israel Hayom daily after the conviction shows that the vast majority of the Israeli public, 70 percent, believe Azaria should be pardoned.

The video was filmed by a Palestinian volunteer for Israeli rights group B'Tselem, which accused the security forces of "routine whitewashing" in a statement after the verdict.

Most liberal commentators, meanwhile, praised the conviction, hailing it as proof that the Israeli army was capable of policing itself, although a former Labor Party leader also called for the soldier's release, citing a case in 1984 when Israeli security officers executed two Palestinian bus hijackers after capturing and interrogating them.

The trial has sparked furious controversy within Israel over the circumstances in which IDF troops can fire on Palestinians against the backdrop of a wave of attacks that have claimed the lives of 37 Israelis since October 2015. With Azaria still facing sentencing and an appeals process, the matter may not come before the president for some time.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot alluded to the case, rejecting the campaign slogan of Azaria's supporters that depicted him as "the child of us all". "A trial should not have happened in the first place, we are talking about a combat situation in which a terrorist was killed", said Culture Minister Miri Regev.

Dismissing one of the defense's key claims, she asserted, "We have adopted the conclusion that the terrorist's death was caused by the shooting by Azaria".

The shooting happened during a wave of Palestinian stabbings a year ago.

However, human rights groups hailed the verdict.

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