Hebron shooter Azaria backs soldiers accused of beating Palestinian suspects

Former IDF soldier demonstrates outside military courthouse, urges servicemen on trial to ‘stay strong,’ says no one should judge their actions

Screen capture from video of former IDF soldier Elor Azaria outside the Jaffa Military Court, February 19, 2019. (Channel 12 news)
Screen capture from video of former IDF soldier Elor Azaria outside the Jaffa Military Court, February 19, 2019. (Channel 12 news)

Elor Azaria, the former Israeli soldier who was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker, demonstrated Tuesday outside a military courthouse in support of five Israeli soldiers on trial inside for beating bound and blindfolded Palestinian suspects.

Azaria, together with members of his family, joined a small protest of right-wing activists at the Jaffa Military Court where the trial is being held.

“They should be strong go with that they hold to be true, all of Israel is behind them,” Azaria told the demonstrators via a loudspeaker. “They shouldn’t be afraid. Only they know what happened there. No one can judge them. No one was in their shoes.”

His father, Charlie Azaria, was also at the courthouse, told reporters, “What they are doing here is to justify putting IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers on trial, our children who are in danger 24 hours a day are in the worse places that can be.”

The troops, who serve in the religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, were indicted on January 31 and were accused of assaulting the two prisoners after they were arrested, blindfolded and handcuffed and put in the back of a military personnel carrier.

One of the five Israeli soldier from the Kfir Brigade arrested for allegedly beating two Palestinian who were in their custody arrives for a court hearing at the Jaffa Military Court on January 10, 2019. (Flash90)

The two Palestinian detainees — a father and son — had been arrested in a raid conducted as part of a search for a terrorist who had killed two of the servicemen’s comrades in a shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf outpost in the central West Bank.

The Palestinians were later charged with assisting the terrorist in his escape.

On Sunday the commanding officer of the five soldiers suspected was charged with failing to prevent the alleged crime.

IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot dead a Palestinian attacker in Hebron, seen during a court hearing at a military court in Jaffa, September 11, 2016. (Flash90)

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

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 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.

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