Arab League denounces ‘racist’ 18-month sentence for Hebron shooter
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Arab League denounces ‘racist’ 18-month sentence for Hebron shooter

22-member bloc says lenient punishment for Elor Azaria exposes 'the level of Israeli disregard for Palestinian blood'

Elor Azaria, who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, arrives at the military court in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Elor Azaria, who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, arrives at the military court in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Arab League condemned on Wednesday an 18-month prison sentence handed to Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for killing an incapacitated Palestinian stabber in the West Bank city of Hebron, saying it reflected “racism.”

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last month in the shooting death of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif on March 24, 2016, who had just stabbed a soldier and was lying on the ground disarmed and wounded in the West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria, a combat medic, was filmed shooting Sharif in the head. The 18-month jail term was handed down by an Israeli military court on Monday.

He also received 18 months in suspended sentences and was demoted from sergeant to private.

“The Israeli military court ruling exposes the level of Israeli disregard for Palestinian blood… and the extent of racism in the occupation’s institutions,” the 22-member bloc said in a statement.

The shooting was caught on video by Israeli rights group B’Tselem and spread widely online.

An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot an unarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B'Tselem)
An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot an unarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B’Tselem)

It showed Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Azaria then shoots him in the head without any apparent provocation.

The case, which came against the backdrop of a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks that erupted in October 2015, has stirred controversy.

Some on the Israeli right have defended the soldier, a French-Israeli national, but military officials said the trial was important to maintain the institution’s reputation.

On Tuesday, Azaria’s family has decried his punishment as too severe, while relatives of the man he killed attacked the ruling for being overly lenient.

The father and mother of Palestinian attacker Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, who was shot dead as he lay on the ground by IDF soldier Elor Azaria, watch on television the verdict of the trial of the soldier, at their family home in the West Bank city of Hebron, February 21, 2017. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
The father and mother of Palestinian attacker Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, who was shot dead as he lay on the ground by IDF soldier Elor Azaria, watch on television the verdict of the trial of the soldier, at their family home in the West Bank city of Hebron, February 21, 2017. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

“Ten months in prison without any consideration for the arrest period that my little brother has already served. We will continue to fight. I am ashamed of my country,” Eti Azaria, sister of Elor Azaria, wrote on Facebook after the sentence was handed down.

Yusri al-Sharif, the father of the killed Palestinian, said the sentence was “unjust” and a “farce designed to deceive world opinion.” The attacker’s uncle, Fathi al-Sharif, said, “We as a family [found] the sentence was unsatisfactory and unfair, in comparison to those given by the Israeli occupation against our sons.”

Yoram Sheftel, who led the defense in the weeks since the conviction, said there would be an appeal, and added that the fact the court ruled that Azaria would serve only half of the minimum amount requested by the prosecution shows that such a move is justified.

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