Israel soldier faces verdict over death


An Israeli military court is due to give its verdict in the case of a soldier charged with manslaughter for killing a wounded Palestinian who had stabbed another soldier.

Sgt Elor Azaria, now 20, shot Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in the head while he was apparently incapacitated in Hebron, in the West Bank, last March.

The case has divided opinion in Israel.

Many argue he must be punished for violating the military code of conduct. Others say his actions were justified.

The shooting happened during a wave of Palestinian stabbings last year.

Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups said the case showed excessive force had been used to stop attacks, and accused Sgt Azaria of carrying out an extra-judicial killing.

In their indictment, prosecutors said Sgt Azaria had “violated the rules of engagement without operational justification as the terrorist was lying on the ground wounded and represented no immediate threat”.

Sharif and another Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier in Hebron on 24 March before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.

Footage of the incident shows Sharif alive. A soldier, identified as Sgt Azaria, is then seen cocking his rifle and fatally shooting him from several metres away.

Afterwards, Sgt Azaria told Israeli military police that Sharif’s hand was within reach of the knife he used in the stabbings, and that he feared the Palestinian man might be wearing an explosive vest.

However, army investigators said that before he opened fire, Sgt Azaria had told a comrade that the wounded man “deserved to die” for stabbing his friend.

A separate video of the incident appeared to show the knife mentioned by Sgt Azaria in his police statement at least 1m (3ft) away from Sharif.

Surveys have suggested that many Israelis believe that shooting the attacker was justified, and rallies in support of the soldier have been held.

Sgt Azaria could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, but some commentators have suggested that a sentence of four to five years was more likely.