Israel’s military prosecutors will reportedly in the next few days offer a reduced jail sentence to an IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant, in exchange for his dropping an appeal.
Elor Azaria was convicted by an IDF military tribunal on Wednesday, concluding a high-profile trial that has deeply divided the country. His attorneys immediately accused the court of bias and vowed to appeal, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed calls for him to be pardoned.
The crime carries a maximum jail term of 20 years, but Israel’s Channel 2 news reported Friday night that military prosecutors will offer a far shorter term if Azaria opts not to appeal. The TV report said Azaria would certainly do some jail time, however.
Azaria’s trial saw politicians and current and former army generals alternately supporting or condemning the soldier’s actions. Many of the army’s top brass, as well as former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, had railed against Azaria’s “unethical” decision to shoot the assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in the head nearly 15 minutes after the latter was shot and wounded after he and an accomplice stabbed an IDF soldier in Hebron last March.
The judges concluded that Azaria’s testimony was “not credible,” that he had opened fire out of a desire for revenge, and that the shooting was “not justified.”
The verdict has prompted an upsurge of threats and invective against the judges and the IDF’s top brass.
Warning: Graphic footage
Military prosecutors at first sought murder charges against Azaria, but the difficulty of proving the soldier’s intent led to a reduced indictment for manslaughter. The court found that Azaria’s actions explicitly contravened the IDF’s rules of engagement, which stipulate, in accordance with Israeli law, that deadly force cannot be used once the assailant no longer poses an immediate threat.