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Defense Ministry rejects Hebron shooter’s appeal for disability status

Elor Azaria, jailed for killing incapacitated Palestinian assailant, says he suffered psychological damage; rejection cites his ‘malicious and severe behavior’

Former soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months, later commuted to 14 months, for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant, arrives at the Tsrifin military prison in Rishon Lezion, on August 9, 2017, to begin serving out his sentence. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Former soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months, later commuted to 14 months, for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant, arrives at the Tsrifin military prison in Rishon Lezion, on August 9, 2017, to begin serving out his sentence. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday rejected the request of a former Israeli soldier, convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in 2016, to be recognized as a disabled veteran.

The ministry’s rehabilitation branch cited Elor Azaria’s “malicious and severe behavior” in its decision, according to Channel 13 news.

The ministry noted Azaria may appeal the decision and said his request to be recognized as a disabled veteran, which would entitle him to compensation, was given “serious consideration.”

He submitted the request in June, claiming he suffered psychological damage due to the affair.

Azaria served nine months of an 18-month prison term for killing Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian who had stabbed an Israeli soldier and had already been shot and subdued.

Azaria has always insisted he behaved correctly in the shooting, which was filmed, and which took place in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016.

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

He maintained that he shot Sharif in the head because he believed he had a bomb hidden under his clothing and that there was a knife nearby. He said that people were screaming that someone should do something, “and I acted exactly as I had been taught since the beginning of my training as a combat soldier.”

The military court rejected all of Azaria’s claims, citing the soldier’s nonchalance in the moments before he killed Sharif, and his statements to fellow soldiers that the assailant deserved to die for attacking his comrades.

IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria arrives for a court hearing at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2017. (Flash90)

Since his release from prison, he has protested in support of soldiers accused of beating Palestinian suspects and appeared in a primary campaign ad for Likud MK Yaron Mazuz.

Several months after his release he said in an interview that he had no regrets about the incident.

Azaria’s case revealed deep divisions in Israeli society over the army’s activities in the West Bank, with some — mostly on the right — arguing that he had behaved heroically in killing the Palestinian assailant, while others said he had broken the law and deserved a harsher sentence than he received.

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