Sergeant Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last week by the Jaffa Military Court. The three judges unanimously found the Israeli army medic guilty of the unlawful killing of Abdel Fattah el-Sharif in the West Bank city of Hebron last March.
The incident was documented by NIF grantee B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
“The fact that the man on the ground was a terrorist does not justify a disproportionate response,” said Col. Maya Heller, head of the three judge panel.
The verdict was greeting with anger from some quarters in Israel. Two people calling for the deaths of the judges were arrested. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon — both of whom distanced themselves from Azaria’s actions — were also targeted by inciters.
As the verdict was read inside the court, far right groups outside the court demonstrated in solidarity with Azaria and clashed with police. Four were arrested. Prominent among the rioters were dozens of Beitar Jerusalem fans — Jerusalem’s soccer club some of whose fans are notorious for racist incitement and violence.
The day following Azaria’s conviction, NIF grantee Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights issued a report that the deaths of 55 out of 99 Palestinians killed by IDF fire in 2015 were never investigated in contravention of IDF policy. The clear implication was that without B’Tselem’s film, the death of el-Sharif may also have gone uninvestigated.
Azaria will be sentenced this Sunday, January 15th. The judges can hand down a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Photo by Miriam Alster / FLASH90