Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday spoke out against a planned rally in support of an IDF soldier charged with killing a wounded and disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron, comparing ralliers to partisans of the Islamic State terror group.
Israel Defense Forces soldier Elor Azaria was indicted Monday in a military court for manslaughter in the fatal shooting of wounded Palestinian Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the West Bank city of Hebron last month.
The rally planned for Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square is expected to attract a large crowd, including a number of pop singers and politicians who have accused the army of abandoning the soldier by jailing and charging him.
“It really worries me. Part of the power [of the IDF], as many have described it — [David] Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and others — is our ethical strength. We aren’t Daesh,” Ya’alon said about the rally, using an acronym for the Islamic State group that has produced shocking videos of its members executing prisoners.
“When there is a need to kill, you kill. When we need to be resolute, we are resolute. But when someone has his hands up, or is already neutralized, that’s when you arrest,” he continued. “Whoever supports these kinds of acts [the soldier’s] is damaging the values of the Israel Defense Forces.”
Ya’alon made his comments during a tour of the communities surrounding the southern Gaza Strip, where earlier in the day the IDF revealed a Hamas attack tunnel had been discovered and destroyed.
Ya’alon and a number of other military officials have defended the army’s decision to prosecute Azaria, saying the killing, caught on video, is inconsistent with the army’s values.
“At times like these, when the public discourse is more complicated than ever, a commander’s voice needs to be sharp, clear and be the compass that leads the soldiers of the IDF,” army chief Gadi Eisenkot said at an event Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, pop singers David D’or and Eyal Golan pulled out of participation in the Rabin Square rally for Azaria, after coming under public pressure over the highly politicized nature of the controversial event. Other singers are still scheduled to perform.
The announcement of Tuesday’s rally drew ire from several lawmakers, with some of them questioning the damage it may cause to the IDF.
Legal proceedings against the soldier have caused a major political storm in Israel, with some right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family claiming he is being “lynched” by the media.
Meanwhile, thousands have demonstrated on his behalf at a number of rallies around the country demanding his release from IDF custody.
Azaria’s name had been kept under gag order until late Monday afternoon, when a court gave the okay to publish his identity after a request from the soldier’s lawyers.
Azaria, 19, was filmed shooting 21-year-old Sharif in the head on March 24, minutes after Sharif and another assailant stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave of the West Bank city of Hebron. The two assailants were shot — one was killed, while Sharif was wounded — by an army officer during the course of their attack.
The soldier maintains that he believed Sharif might have been wearing a suicide vest and that he shot him out of fear he might activate the bomb.
Military prosecutors have reportedly said the soldier’s behavior at the scene did not indicate any such concern, and noted comments he reportedly made that the stabber should be killed.