1000s of Israelis rally for soldier who shot wounded Palestinian

2016-04-19 22:54
Israelis hold up flags during a rally in Tel Aviv in support of Elor Azaria. (Lior Mizrahi, AFP)

Israelis hold up flags during a rally in Tel Aviv in support of Elor Azaria. (Lior Mizrahi, AFP)

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Tel Aviv - Thousands of Israelis held a rally on Tuesday in support of Elor Azria, a soldier recently charged with manslaughter after shooting a prone and wounded Palestinian assailant in the head.

The rally, attended by an estimated 5 000 people, was a source of controversy in Israel where the top brass have condemned Azria's actions while far-right supporters and politicians urged his release.

Organisers and Azria's family said the rally was only aimed at supporting the soldier, but two top Israeli singers who had been expected to perform at the event pulled out on Monday.

The demonstrators held Israeli flags and chanted in support of Azria, with second-tier singers performing between speeches.

A reporter for the Jerusalem Post said organiser Sharon Gal told the crowd that the event was focused on "messages of love and positivity". He noted, however,  that some demonstrators chanted "death to Arabs" and "release the kid or we'll turn the country over".

Nava Boker, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party who attended the rally, said that Azria "has turned into a scapegoat".

"At the end of the day, the message to soldiers should be clear - a soldier who neutralises a terrorist, even if he was mistaken, shouldn't be imprisoned," she said in a statement.

Azria, who also holds French citizenship, was charged on Monday with manslaughter and unbecoming conduct over the March 24 killing that took place in the southern West Bank city Hebron.

A widely circulated video showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another man after stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier minutes earlier, according to the army.

Azria, who was not at the scene during Sharif's attack, then shoots him in the head without any apparent provocation. His lawyers argued he thought the Palestinian was wearing explosives.

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that he was "convinced that the court will consider all circumstances regarding the incident".

"Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers and I hope that a way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the event," he said.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel

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