Israeli jailed for 18 months for shooting dead wounded Palestinian attacker

A young Israeli soldier who killed a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment on Tuesday, in a show of leniency that drew Palestinian outrage after one of the most divisive trials in Israel's history.

Azaria, an army medic, was recorded on a cellphone video last March as he fatally shot a badly wounded Palestinian who had stabbed a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In the face of strong condemnation of Azaria's actions by top military brass including Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and then-defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, far-right supporters and some politicians have accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own, making Azaria a scapegoat.

Surveys detected significant popular support for Azaria, and Netanyahu took the unusual step of calling the soldier's parents to express his sympathy after he was arrested. During the same time, Israeli forces have killed 235 Palestinians, a lot of them said to be attackers. "You can throw the military court and its decisions out the other window and the racist atmosphere that says you may kill terrorists even if they are neutralized will rule", he said. Israel's President Reuven Rivlin can also issue a pardon.

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His defense attorney vowed to appeal the sentence, considered mild compared with the three to five years the prosecution had requested.

Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, called the conviction an "important message about reining in excessive use of force". A Palestinian human rights activist captured the shooting and the tense moments leading up to it on video, and the footage drew worldwide attention.

Abu Shamsiya told Mondoweiss he is grateful he was around to film the incident, because without the camera footage he feels certain Azaria would never have been taken to court, let alone serve time in prison.

The reaction from Palestinians and rights groups, however, was anger and disappointment.

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"For me, a just verdict will be one that is similar to the verdicts our sons receive, which is a life sentence", Yusri al-Sharif, father of Abdul Fattah said before the sentencing. According to the report, 34 of the Palestinians killed, or 30.6 percent, were from the Hebron district where Azaria shot Sharif dead in March.

"One can not use this type of force, even if we're talking about an enemy's life", the court said in its verdict.

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 sentence, which included a year's probation and a demotion in rank, was lighter than expected.

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Azaria entered the packed courtroom to applause from friends. After the sentencing, the family sang Israel's national anthem.


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