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Father of soldier in Hebron shooting accuses army of framing son

Crying in court where son is on trial for manslaughter, Charlie Azaria says ‘someone is pulling the strings’ from above; driver says he kicked knife to prevent it from sliding down a hill

Elor Azaria in court on July 5, 2016 (Flash90)
Elor Azaria in court on July 5, 2016 (Flash90)

The father of an Israeli soldier who is accused of shooting dead a disarmed Palestinian stabber on Tuesday accused the army of framing him for the killing, as an ambulance driver filmed moving a knife closer to the slain assailant said he did so to keep the weapon from sliding down a hill.

Charlie Azaria, the father of Elor Azaria, burst into tears during his son’s trial in Jaffa Military Court, and accused the army’s judicial authorities of corruption.

“Were these officers even in Hebron?” Charlie Azaria demanded. “They received orders from above. They are framing him. Someone is pulling the strings.”

He also said that officials are “trying with all their might to convict my son,” Channel 2 reported.

Charlie Azaria, left, with his son Elor Azaria in Jaffa military court on July 5, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Charlie Azaria, left, with his son Elor Azaria in Jaffa military court on July 5, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Azaria’s aunt also blamed the IDF for her nephew’s predicament, saying it was the army that “gave him a weapon and instructed him.”

On March 24, Azaria was filmed shooting and killing Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, who had just been shot and wounded while carrying out a stabbing attack on other soldiers.

Another assailant, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, was shot and killed as soldiers attempted to thwart the attack.

The case has sparked much controversy and inflamed political tensions in Israel. Despite strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, including former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, far-right supporters and some politicians have accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.

Elor Azaria hugging his mother and father in Jaffa military court on July 5, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Elor Azaria hugging his mother and father in Jaffa military court on July 5, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Newly installed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman initially came out strongly in support of Azaria, but before entering his post promised not to interfere in the trial.

Video footage released by the prosecution in June as testimony began in the army’s case against Azaria appeared to show an ambulance driver at the scene moving a knife closer to the man’s body after the fact, in a possible attempt to manufacture a case for self-defense.

“I kicked the knife at the scene to bring it closer so that it didn’t tumble down the hill,” Ofer Ohana said in court Tuesday, according to Ynet.

Azaria was indicted for manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct in the Jaffa Military Court on April 18.

Azaria’s attorneys have claimed one of the reasons their client shot al-Sharif was fear that the Palestinian man, who had already attacked two soldiers, would use the knife to attack more people.

A 'before and after' comparison of the knife's placement during an incident in Hebron in which a soldier was filmed shooting an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the head nearly 15 minutes after a stabbing attack on March 24, 2016. (screen captures: Channel 2)
A ‘before and after’ comparison of the knife’s placement during an incident in Hebron in which a soldier was filmed shooting an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the head nearly 15 minutes after a stabbing attack on March 24, 2016. (screen captures: Channel 2)

“The accused acted in a split second to neutralize the terrorist and prevent injury to himself and his companions who were near the terrorist,” the defense team said in May.

The footage released in June, which shows the knife was several feet away from al-Sharif at the time of the shooting, appears to further cast doubt on that assertion.

“There’s a claim that the terrorist moved his hand in the direction of the knife that was near his hand — we will show that this claim is a false one,” chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman told the Jaffa Military Court in June.

One of the Azaria’s defense attorneys, Ilan Katz, dismissed the video of the knife being moved as irrelevant because it recorded events after the actual shooting.

“The video clip of the kicking of the knife is not relevant, because it happened after the incident itself,” he said. “The soldier has been confronted with the video clips, and as the trial progresses we will prove the fact that this was not manslaughter.”

The other self-defense claim made by Azaria’s attorneys deals with the possibility that al-Sharif had been wearing an explosive belt that he could have detonated.

The prosecution did not specifically address that claim last month, but has brushed it off as unlikely as al-Sharif’s body had already been searched and because shooting toward an explosive device while other soldiers are standing nearby is not army protocol in such a situation.

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