Israeli Soldier Convicted In Killing Of Wounded Knife Attacker

A hawkish member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition is calling for an "immediate pardon" for the Israeli soldier that killed a wounded Palestinian assailant.

Last March, Sergeant Elor Azaria was at the scene of a knife attack in Hebron when he cocked his assault rifle and pulled the trigger on an unconscious 21-year-old named Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, as if he were putting a farm animal out of its misery.

"Al-Sharif had been shot and wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier".

Footage of the incident appeared to show the Palestinian motionless.

But Azaria's parents, Charlie and Oshra, have been highly critical of the proceedings, believing their son should not have been put on trial.

"The fact that the man on the ground was a terrorist does not justify a disproportionate response", said Col. Maya Heller, delivering the verdict.

The manslaughter charge can carry a jail term of up to 20 years, although observers say a sentence of four to five years is more likely if Azaria is found guilty. "The army must be kept out of political debates", he said.

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter by the Israeli military, sits to hear his verdict in a military court in Tel Aviv, Jan. 4, 2017. Azaria had claimed in his defense that he felt he was in danger because al-Sharif might be wearing a concealed explosive vest.

The footage, aired by some local media, drew global to the shooting, which came amid a wave of Palestinian stabbings.

A new HRW report suggests that senior officials encourages the Israeli Defense and Police Forces to "shoot to kill" Palestinians they suspect of attacking Israelis, "even when they are no longer a threat".

It's extremely rare for an Israeli military court to side against a soldier over lethal action taken in the field.

Miri Regev, Israel's culture and sports minister, said she would "work to pardon" the convicted soldier.

Relatives of the soldier stormed out of the proceedings, with one accusing the three military judges of being "disgusting leftists".

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

Azaria had testified that a-Sharif, who had been lying nearly motionless on the ground for several minutes before the soldier shot him in the head, appeared to be moving. "I support pardoning Elor Azaria".

A poll by the government-supporting newspaper Israel Hayom found that around 70 percent of Israelis favor a pardon for Azaria.

The video was filmed by a Palestinian volunteer for Israeli rights group B'Tselem, which accused the security forces of "routine whitewashing" in a statement after the verdict.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot alluded to the case, rejecting the campaign slogan of Azaria's supporters that depicted him as "the child of us all".

The Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International group said that the move gives hope for more justice in cases of unwarranted violence by soldiers in the region.

  • Rogelio Becker