TEL AVIV (JTA) – An Israeli soldier who shot a downed Palestinian terrorist was convicted in an Israeli military court of manslaughter.
The verdict against Sgt. Elor Azaria, 20, was read out Wednesday by a panel of three judges at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Hundreds of protesters outside the venue clashed with police and several were arrested over the course of the more than three hours it took to read the decision.
The judges rejected the defence’s claims and version of what occurred in the March 24 incident.
“He opened fired in violation of orders, the terrorist did not pose any threat,” the judges wrote in their verdict. “The fact that the man sprawled on the ground was a terrorist who had just sought to take the lives of IDF soldiers at the scene does not in itself justify disproportionate action.”
Azaria, a medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in Hebron in the West Bank.
One assailant was killed, and Abdel Fattah al-Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a shooting that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem. Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif.
Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.
The case has been controversial in Israel, with some on the political right calling for solidarity with Azaria and others, including military leaders, suggesting such calls reflect a national crisis of ethics.
Azaria’s defence team said it would appeal the verdict. Many government ministers have called for a presidential pardon for Azaria.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in an interview outside the courtroom called the decision a “difficult verdict” that “must be respected.”