IDF Soldier Who Killed Subdued Assailant in Hebron Charged With Manslaughter
Jaffa (TPS) – Cpl. Elor Azaria, an IDF medic at the center of a tumultuous public debate in Israel after being filmed shooting a wounded Palestinian stabber, was officially charged with manslaughter on Monday afternoon.
According to the indictment, filed at the Jaffa Military Court, 20-year-old Azaria arrived at the scene after the March stabbing attack in Hebron and treated the wounded soldier. He then walked towards the wounded Palestinian assailant, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, cocked his weapon and shot him once in the head from close range.
“The soldier did all this against the rules of engagement and without military justification,” added the military prosecution. “The assailant al-Sharif was lying on the ground, did not attack again, and did not pose an immediate threat to the defendant or to the civilians and soldiers who were at the scene. In his actions, the defendant caused the unlawful death of the assailant al-Sharif.”
Azaria’s identity had been under a court gag order since the incident, and was cleared for publication during Monday’s discussion.
Azaria’s lawyer, Eyal Besserglick, claimed that there were concrete reasons to suspect the assailant had a bomb strapped to his body and that Azaria believed he was saving lives by removing a perceived threat.
“Nobody can say he was neutralized,” said Besserglick in court, referring to al-Sharif. “Seconds earlier someone shouted that he was moving and that there was a bomb. In the autopsy, the pathologist said that voluntary or involuntary hand movements cannot be ruled out.”
It was Azaria’s “first time in his life at such an incident,” Besserglick added. “He was distraught. Is this a reason to detain him until the end of court proceedings? He was told to shoot if there was doubt. He found himself in an impossible situation and did the best he could considering his training.”
The case has stirred controversy and heated debates since footage of the shooting was publicized by the Israeli NGO B’tselem in March. Right-wing activists and politicians, including members of Netanyahu’s own party and cabinet, have harshly criticized the government and IDF for pressing charges against the soldier.
A massive rally in support of Azaria is planned for Tuesday evening at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. The demonstration originally boasted performances by an array of Israeli pop-stars. Two headliners, Eyal Golan and David D’or, have since pulled out, citing fears of being perceived as critical of the IDF.
“I’m not a political person,” D’or explained.