IDF soldier rejects manslaughter charges in Hebron shooting case
The body of a Palestinian assailant who was allegedly shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he lay wounded on the ground Hebron on March 24, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
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The "Hebron shooter," Sergeant Elor Azaria, on Monday denied all of the manslaughter charges against him for shooting Abdel Fatal al-Sharif in Hebron on March 24 as he lay wounded on the ground after allegedly attacking Israeli security forces.
The incident was picked up on a video distributed by B'Tselem, went viral online and has dominated the airwaves with a war of words over Azaria's guilt or innocence.
It has pitted outgoing Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who condemned Azaria, against incoming defense minister Avigdor Liberman and various politicians on the right, who say they rushed to judgment.
Azaria’s denial before the Jaffa Military Court included a claim of self-defense and blasting the IDF Prosecution for what his lawyers called arbitrary enforcement.
According to Azaria’s lawyers, he thought that shooting al-Sharif was the only way to save his life and the lives of nearby soldiers, thinking that al-Sharif was about to attack with a knife and an explosive belt.
Azaria said he also felt that the IDF singled him out unfairly for non-legal reasons, while other soldiers committing similar acts in the past were let off with a letter of censor and no criminal charges.
In the video showing the shooting, IDF soldiers can be heard saying “this dog is still alive” in Hebrew, while the soldier who shot al-Sharif says, “this terrorist deserves to die.”
Azaria’s trial kicked off on May 9.
According to the indictment. the March 24 incident started around 8:00 a.m. when two Palestinians, al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz Mustafa Kusrawi, attacked Sec.-Lt. M.S. and Cpl. A.V. at the Jilbar checkpoint in Hebron.
In response, M.S. and A.V. shot and killed Kusrawi, and seriously injured al-Sharif who had stabbed and injured A.V.
Reports have indicated Azaria arrived about six minutes later, with the indictment stating that he arrived on the scene “a few minutes later” as a medic and initially attended to A.V.’s wounds.
Next, Azaria spent a few minutes in the area uneventfully. Subsequently, he retrieved his helmet which he had placed on the ground.
He handed it to a fellow soldier, took a few steps toward al-Sharif, set his gun ready to fire and fired one shot into his head killing him instantly.
The indictment also stated that Azaria fired on the Palestinian "against the rules of engagement, with no military necessity, at a moment when the terrorist al-Sharif was lying on the ground, was not engaging further attacks and did not constitute an immediate danger to the defendant, to the civilians or to the soldiers in the area."
An autopsy confirmed that Azaria’s shot caused al-Sharif’s death, though the defense hinted that they may contest this issue during the trial as well.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material.
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