Police overnight Saturday arrested seven people for disturbing the peace during an illegal demonstration in support of IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter by a military tribunal last week.
The protesters participating in the impromptu demonstration outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem were detained for repeatedly refusing to comply with police instructions, a statement from spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
The detainees were expected to appear at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court later on Sunday for a remand hearing.
The seven were reportedly part of a group of ultra-nationalist fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, according to Israel Radio.
Azaria was unanimously convicted by a military court of manslaughter on Wednesday for killing a wounded Palestinian stabber in Hebron last year. The case had deeply divided the country and the conviction drew the anger of many on the right wing, including some who scuffled with police outside the courtroom in central Tel Aviv last week.
Since the verdict was handed down, a number of politicians and Azaria supporters have called for President Reuven Rivlin to pardon the soldier.
In addition to granting a full pardon, the president, in conjunction with the justice minister, can commute a sentence to a shorter prison time or to another punishment such as community service.
In a statement released hours after the verdict, Rivlin’s office said clemency requests would be considered by the president “in accordance with standard practices,” afte
Azaria’s sentencing is scheduled for January 15. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, though analysts expect him to receive less than that.
In the face of strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, including IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, far-right supporters and some politicians have accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.
At least three people have been arrested for inciting violence against Eisenkot and members of the military tribunal following the verdict.
On Saturday night, police arrested a Jerusalem man suspected of inciting violence against Eisenkot.
Last week, police arrested two people on suspicion of calling for attacks against military judge Maya Heller, who headed the tribunal that convicted Azaria. Both were released to house arrest Thursday, on condition that they stay off social media and keep away from Heller.
Security around Heller and the other two judges on the panel, Lt. Col. Carmel Wahabi and Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbo, was tightened, after reports of thousands of threats of violence against them on social media and elsewhere.
During Azaria’s sentencing, supporters gathered outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv verbally attacked Eisenkot, shouting slogans such as “Gadi watch out, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referring to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995.
The attorney general on Thursday instructed police to launch an investigation into a group of demonstrators who were captured on camera threatening Eisenkot over Azaria’s conviction.
According to social media tracking firm Vigo, in addition to the slogans shouted at the trial, some 2,500 posts put online as of Thursday afternoon threatened Eisenkot.
The early morning arrests came hours after a rally in Tel Aviv against incitement and in favor of national unity, in the wake of the deeply contentious trial.
Police assessed that around 3,000 people were at the event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
In attendance were Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and the families of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank in 2014 — Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who also spoke at the rally, called for “unconditional love” and “respect for opinions across the political spectrum.”
The rally was initiated by Ziv Shilon, an IDF officer who lost an arm in an explosion in the Gaza Strip in 2012, after he wrote a heartfelt Facebook post earlier this week condemning the radicalization of the discourse surrounding the deeply divisive case.
In his Facebook post, Shilon wrote: “I, who have not cried even in the most difficult moments, sat today and simply cried over the nation of Israel ripping itself to shreds in unprecedented hate.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.