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Dhaka Tribune

Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months for killing Palestinian

Update : 21 Feb 2017, 06:49 PM

An Israeli soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian, who was incapacitated having already been shot, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for manslaughter. Judge Maya Heller of the military court in Tel Aviv delivered the sentencing on Tuesday in a case that has stoked passions, debate and protest.

Analysts had expected Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter one month earlier, to be jailed for fewer than the maximum sentence of 20 years for killing Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif.

The March 24 shooting, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, was filmed by activists from the Israeli B'Tselem human rights group. That video shows Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian.

Azaria, a 20-year-old combat medic, then delivers the fatal blow, shooting him again in the head without any provocation. According to the army, Sharif had stabbed and wounded another soldier. It was unclear whether Azaria's family would follow up on a promise to appeal against a decision to imprison the soldier for more than 10 months. Issa Amro, director of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements activist group, said that a sentence of 18 months in jail "is not proportionate with what Azaria did". "We are talking about a war criminal, according to international law," he said, adding that it was likely Azaria would receive a pardon from the government. "I believe Azaria was following orders to execute Palestinians, and leave them bleeding until they pass away," he said. "This is what (Israeli soldiers) did in many cases in Hebron, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah. Israeli soldiers are not held to account. I've just seen soldiers celebrating Azaria getting 18 months."

'Deserves to die'

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. "He deserves to die," Azaria was quoted in the verdict as telling another soldier after pulling the trigger.

At the sentencing, Chief Judge Maya Heller said that Azaria "took upon himself to be both judge and executioner".

Members of Israel's military establishment argued that the shooting violated rules stating that soldiers can open fire only in life-threatening situations, and the three-judge panel rejected Azaria's argument.

"One cannot use this type of force, even if we're talking about an enemy's life," the court said in its verdict.

Video footage of the shooting, taken by a Palestinian human rights activist, showed the knife was not within Ashareef's reach, and no bomb was found. The video was distributed to news organisations, ensuring that the incident drew international attention.

[arve url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB5EWNF71ug"/]

'Extrajudicial killings'

The case raised questions about how Israeli soldiers deal with perceived threats by Palestinians. Shortly after the shooting, the Palestinian leadership demanded the United Nations investigate what rights groups have called Israel's "extrajudicial killings".

Sharif's father, Yusri, has previously said Azaria deserves a life sentence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israeli politicians had thrown their weight behind Azaria, calling for the soldier to be pardoned.

Since October 2015, Israeli soldiers and settlers have been responsible for the killing of at least 244 Palestinians, including unarmed demonstrators, bystanders and alleged attackers in an upsurge in violence.

Thirty-six Israelis have also been killed in mostly stabbing and shooting incidents carried out by Palestinians.

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