Israeli court gives soldier 18 months

2017-02-21 17:01
Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at his hearing in Tel Aviv. (Jim Hollander, AP)

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at his hearing in Tel Aviv. (Jim Hollander, AP)

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Tel Aviv - An Israeli military court on Tuesday sentenced a soldier to 18 months in prison for his deadly shooting of a Palestinian attacker who lay wounded on the ground, capping a nearly year-long saga that has deeply divided the country.

The sentence, which included a year's probation and a demotion in rank, was lighter than expected. Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of three to five years. Palestinians dismissed the sentence as a "joke."

Excessive force

Yet it still triggered disappointment from several hundred protesters who had gathered outside the Tel Aviv court and had hoped to see the soldier walk free. Sergeant Elor Azaria is to start serving his term on March 5 and politicians immediately called for him to be pardoned.

"Even if he erred, Elor should not sit in prison. We will all pay the price," said Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home Party and an early supporter of the soldier.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, said the light sentencing only encouraged Israeli soldiers to use excessive force.

"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.

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last month in a rare case of a military court ruling against a combat soldier for lethal action taken in the field.

The verdict marked a victory for commanders who said Azaria had violated the army's code of ethics. But the soldier himself generated great support among the public, many of whom see him as a scapegoat for a misguided elite that has sought to harshly punish a soldier who they say responded to an armed attacker trying to kill other soldiers.

Numerous stabbing

Azaria, an army medic, was caught on a cellphone video last March as he fatally shot the wounded Palestinian, just after the man stabbed a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was lying on the ground badly wounded and already unarmed when Azaria shot him in the head.

The shooting occurred at the height of what has become more than a year-long wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Since September 2015, Palestinian attackers have carried out numerous stabbing and shooting attacks that have killing 41 Israelis and two visiting Americans. During the same time, Israeli forces have killed 235 Palestinians, most of them attackers.


Read more on:    israel  |  middle east peace

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