Hebron shooter gets 18 months in jail

Tracy FergusonFeb 22, 2017

An Israeli soldier has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker a year ago.

At the trial, Azaria said he believed the Palestinian, though motionless, still posed a danger because his knife was nearby, and that he might have been carrying explosives.

The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online.

Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter a month ago.

The case raised questions about how Israeli soldiers deal with perceived threats by Palestinians.

Some on the right have defended the soldier, a French-Israeli national, but military officials said the trial was important to maintain the institution's reputation. According to the BBC, some military chiefs supported Azaria, while others condemned him.

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Even before the trial had concluded, politicians from across the political spectrum, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for Azaria to be pardoned, effectively taking a different stance than the military leadership.

Al-Sharif's family had hoped for a longer sentence, his father telling reporters at the family's home today, "A year and a half is a farce".

"(But) the 18-month sentence for Elor Azaria does not reflect the gravity of the offence".

A poll conducted after Azaria' conviction shows that 70 percent of the Israeli public is in favor of pardoning him. The judge also said the severity of the shooting and backlash it caused to the Israeli military was mitigated since the shooting happened during an active combat situation.

Azaria, now 20, was convicted in January by a panel of military judges for the death of Abdel al-Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron in March.

The case came against the backdrop of a wave of shootings of Palestinians by Israeli security forces that erupted in October 2015.

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"This sentence is a joke, and it shows how much discrimination Israeli courts practice against Palestinians", said Issa Karaka, the Palestinian government minister for prisoners.

Passing an 18-month sentence, the court said Azaria, whom it demoted to the rank of private, had "taken upon himself to be both judge and executioner" and had not expressed regret for his crime.

Issa Karaka, the Palestinian government minister in charge of prisoner affairs, called the sentence a "joke". "You can throw the military court and its decisions out the other window and the racist atmosphere that says you may kill terrorists even if they are neutralized will rule", he said.

By law, the convicted soldier has two options to ask for a pardon or a mitigation of his sentence.

The support for Azaria comes as Israelis are hardening their attitudes about the conflict with the Palestinians.

Following the ruling last month, hundreds of demonstrators near the courtroom in Tel Aviv blocked a road and clashed with police.

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