An internal Israeli military document leaked to Vice News states that Sgt. Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month after he had been neutralized, was motivated by a “twisted ideology,” the website said.
The 17-page document issued by military prosecutors investigating the case, stated that Azaria, a 19-year-old sergeant in the Kfir infantry brigade, told other soldiers both before and after the shooting that the assailant “needs to die.”
It also stated that Azaria changed his version of events during his questioning, saying he had shot “because I felt there was a threat to my life.”
The shooting took place last month in Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of a seven-month wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Two Palestinians stabbed and lightly wounded a soldier before troops killed one of them and shot and wounded the other. A video later showed one of the attackers, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, still alive minutes later before Azaria shot him in the head.
Azaria’s defense team has said he believed al-Sharif was wearing an explosive vest when he shot him.
The leaked report noted that both assailants had been checked by another soldier prior to Azaria’s arrival at the scene, who confirmed that they no longer posed any danger.
When the company commander, who had initially thought both assailants had been killed by soldiers, noticed al-Sharif move his head, he went to radio in that the man was still alive.
At that point Azaria, standing nearby, reportedly told a comrade that “a terrorist that wounded their friend needs to die.” The second soldier tried to calm him, telling him their friend would be fine, but Azaria then stepped forward and fired a shot at al-Sharif’s head, hitting him.
When questioned by the company commander as to why he had shot the man, Azaria once again said, “He’s a terrorist, he needs to die,” the report noted. It was only after he was detained and an investigation was launched that Azaria began claiming he had believed the assailant still posed a danger.
“To his commanders he said right after he shot that ‘a terrorist who hurt our soldiers shouldn’t stay alive,'” an investigator writes. “He said the same to his friend, another soldier, seconds before the shooting. To me… he gave a different version: ‘I shot because I felt that there was a threat to life. There was a knife next to the terrorist and also people shouted that he had a bomb on him.'”
“The facts speak for themselves,” Vice quotes an investigator as saying. “The company medic took the decision to shoot the terrorist due to a twisted ideology.”
The document was also said to be critical of the soldiers’ failure to treat al-Sharif as he lay wounded on the ground, before Azaria shot him.
“We need to address the subject of treating terrorists after they get neutralized immediately. We need to increase our moral attention to it and we need to demand our soldiers do exactly what we expect them to do in such events.”
Other contributors warned that the incident could gravely damage Israel and the IDF’s image in the world.
In summary, the most senior investigator in the report stated that “shooting at the terrorist while he is on the floor with almost no movement, and is bleeding for a few minutes after the terror attack happened, is a significantly immoral action and there is no good explanation for this… The shooting serves the Palestinian claims about executions and by this hurts the legitimacy of our actions.
“I expect and order in the clearest way that the IDF forces in the West Bank will do their best to ensure medical treatment to every Palestinian including terrorists that (have) attacked and (have) stopped being dangerous.”
A military court indicted Azaria last week for manslaughter in the fatal shooting of al-Sharif. He was also charged with inappropriate military conduct.
“The accused violated the rules of engagement without operational justification as the terrorist was lying on the ground wounded and represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present,” a copy of the indictment said. “By his acts, the accused unlawfully caused the death of the terrorist Abdul Sharif.”
Last Friday Azaria was released for two days from his on-base detention to join his family for the Passover holiday. He was ordered to return to his base the following Sunday. A military court has ordered his detention until the end of proceedings.
Azaria was welcomed home by friends and family to hugs, songs and cheers.
“Thanks for the support. Thanks to the judges who allowed him to have the holiday at home. With God’s help this whole thing will end and we’ll go back to being a normal family,” the soldier’s father, Charlie, told reporters outside the family home in Ramle. “We love Israel, we’re not enemies of the state.”
The case has led to a major controversy in Israel and has sparked political tensions, with far-right supporters and politicians calling for the soldier’s release, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot underlining that the soldier’s action was unacceptable and condemning it.
Agencies contributed to this report.