Israeli soldier sentence triggers Palestinian anger

Israeli soldier sentence triggers Palestinian anger
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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Palestinians have reacted with outrage to the 18-month prison sentence handed down to an Israeli soldier who killed a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant.

  • Palestinian outrage to soldier sentence
  • A “green light” for “executions”
  • No immediate comment from Netanyahu
  • Not clear if lawyers plan to appeal

Palestinians have reacted with outrage to the 18-month prison sentence handed down to an Israeli soldier who killed a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant.

The trial has been one of the most divisive in Israeli history.

“They are laughing at us,” the dead man’s father told the Reuters agency after the sentence was announced.

What have Palestinian officials said?

The Palestinian government says the decision gives Israeli soldiers a “green light” to carry out “executions” without fear of real punishment.

However, analysts think the sentencing is unlikely to lead to any significant outbreak of anti-Israeli violence.

This has largely waned since a flurry of street attacks that began in October 2015.

Palestinians have long accused Israel of using excessive force against lightly-armed attackers.

Many do not expect soldiers to be held accountable.

What have the Israelis said?

The unusually light sentence for Elor Azaria has nonetheless triggered disappointment from protesters who had hoped to see the soldier walk free from court.

Politicians have called for the sergeant to be pardoned.

But the Israeli Army is adamant.

“The sentencing today sends an important message to all the soldiers and commanders in the army,” said military prosecutor Nadav Weisman.

“Regarding military ethics and the importance of protecting the rules about use of firearms, it is clear to us that it is not an easy day for the defendant and his family, but justice had to be done.”

There was no immediate comment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on an official visit to Singapore and Australia.

Shortly after Azaria’s arrest, the right-wing leader took the unusual step of calling the soldier’s family to express his sympathy.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, commenting on Facebook after the sentencing, said “the terrorist had come to kill Jews and everyone must take this into account”.

What happened?

Sergeant Elor Azaria was serving as an army medic in the town of Hebron in the occupied West Bank 18 months ago when two Palestinians stabbed and wounded another soldier.

One of them was shot dead by troops.


The other was shot and wounded before being shot and killed by Azaria, who was then 19.

At his trial, Azaria said he believed the Palestinian, although motionless, still posed a danger because his knife was nearby and he may have been carrying explosives.

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

The trial and verdict

A three-judge military court convicted Azaria of manslaughter last month.

The crime carries a maximum 20-year term.


Prosecutors had asked for a three-to-five year sentence, noting the soldier had shot an assailant who had carried out an attack only minutes earlier.

Passing an 18-month sentence, the court said Azaria had “taken upon himself to be both judge and executioner” and had not expressed regret for his crime.

However, it said it was passing a lighter sentence than requested partly because it had been Azaria’s first combat experience and his record had been unblemished until then.

It was not immediately clear if Azaria’s lawyers, one of whom described the sentence as light in remarks to reporters, would opt to appeal.

The debate

The trial generated debate about whether the military, in accusing Azaria of violating open-fire rules and its ethical code, was out of touch with a public that has shifted to the right in its attitudes towards the Palestinians.

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