Israeli soldier guilty of manslaughter for shooting Palestinian

2017-01-04 14:12
Elor Azaria in court. (Heidi Levine, AFP)

Elor Azaria in court. (Heidi Levine, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tel Aviv - An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground posing no apparent threat was convicted of manslaughter on Wednesday after a trial that deeply divided the country.

The soldier, Elor Azaria, had been on trial in a military court since May, with right-wing politicians defending him despite top army brass harshly condemning his actions.

Sentencing is expected at a later date. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller spent more than two and a half hours reading out the decision, sharply criticising the arguments of Azaria's lawyers.

On behalf of the three-judge panel, Heller said there was no reason for Azaria to open fire since the Palestinian was posing no threat.

She called Azaria's testimony "evolving and evasive".

Azaria's demeanour drastically changed as the judge read the verdict.

Dressed in a green army uniform, he had entered the courtroom smiling, with family members and supporters applauding him.

But he and his family later looked shaken as the judge spoke, with his mother and father huddling together.

After the verdict, his mother yelled: "You should be ashamed of yourselves".

Azaria was 19 at the time of the killing in March 2016 in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Protests outside

In a sign of the tensions surrounding the case, dozens of protesters scuffled with police Wednesday as they gathered outside Israel's military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the verdict was announced.

They held a sign that read: "People of Israel do not abandon a soldier in the battlefield".

The shooting set off intense political debate, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having earlier called Azaria's father to express his sympathy.

Others on the right have called for him to be pardoned in an extraordinary public rift between politicians and the country's military.

Before he became Israeli defence minister in May, Avigdor Lieberman was among those showing strong support for Azaria, including attending one of his court appearances.

He has since backed away from his earlier stance and, immediately after Wednesday's verdict, said he disagreed with the decision but that it must be respected.

"I call on politicians to stop attacking the security establishment and the army and its chief of staff," he said.

Others however from what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history maintained their hardline position.

"He's our son, our child," Culture Minister Miri Regev told Israeli television, saying Azaria should not have faced a criminal trial.

The case burst into public view when a video of the March 24 shooting emerged and spread widely online.

The 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.

Azaria then shoots him again in the head without any apparent provocation.

His lawyers argued the soldier may have thought the Palestinian was wearing explosives, but others said he had already been checked for a suicide belt and no one in the video appears to be acting with caution toward him.

Polarised public

Military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot has spoken out against the politicisation of the case, warning it could badly harm the army.

He said rules on when to open fire must be followed.

The case galvanised the Israeli public, and television and radio stations interrupted their broadcasts to carry live coverage of the verdict.

It had been portrayed by some as a test of whether Israel's military could prosecute one of its own, though many Palestinians dismissed it, arguing Azaria was only taken to trial because of the video.

The military has said it began investigating before the release of the video, filmed by a Palestinian volunteer for Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

The shooting came against the backdrop of a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks that erupted in October 2015.

Israeli security forces have been accused of excessive force in certain other cases as well, though authorities say officers act appropriately to protect themselves and civilians.

Most of the attacks were by lone-wolf assailants, many of them young people, including teenagers. Israel's military has said it believes a significant number of them were essentially on suicide missions.

The violence has greatly subsided in recent months.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.