Israeli court gives soldier 18 months for fatal shooting
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 yearlong 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.”
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. Sgt. 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.
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 alSharif, was lying on the ground badly wounded and already unarmed when Azaria shot him in the head.
The dead Palestinian’s father, Yousri al-Sharif, said the light sentence made a mockery of justice. “If one of us killed an animal they would have put him in jail for God knows how long. They are only making fun of us,” he said.