The trial of an IDF soldier who shot dead a disarmed, critically wounded Palestinian stabber in the West Bank city of Hebron was set to resume Sunday at the Jaffa military court after a month-long break.
Sgt. Elor Azaria was caught on film on March 24 shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head, nearly 15 minutes after Sharif had been shot and wounded by soldiers he tried to stab. Azaria has been charged with manslaughter.
An IDF soldier was moderately wounded in the stabbing attack, during the course of which a second Palestinian assailant was shot and killed.
The trail was halted for several weeks in order to give Azaria’s attorneys time to bring witnesses.
Defense attorney Eyal Besserglick said Sunday morning that “witnesses who were in the area or nearby will testify, some of whom were not questioned by military police. We have all kinds of expert witnesses.”
“There will be a lot of surprises,” he predicted in an interview with Army Radio.
Azaria has testified that he shot Sharif because he saw him moving and feared that the Palestinian was wearing an explosive belt and was trying to set it off, endangering troops in the area.
Sharif was not found to have been carrying explosives.
Among the witnesses who will give testimony backing Azaria’s shooting of Sharif are three former senior IDF officers: Brigadier General (res.) Shmuel Zakai, Major General (res.) Dan Biton and Major General (res.) Uzi Dayan.
Zakai was the commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division before he resigned from his post in 2004 over accusations that he had leaked reports to the Israeli media about differences in opinion between the IDF and political leaders. He was later forced to resign from the IDF.
Biton headed the IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate until 2012.
Dayan is a nephew of former minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe Dayan. He served as head of the IDF’s Central Command, was deputy chief of staff, and later headed the Israeli National Security Council before launching a brief political career.
The killing of Sharif made international headlines, and Azaria’s subsequent trial has inflamed political tensions in Israel, with far-right supporters and some politicians accusing the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.
Over the coming month the defense team is expected to call some 25 witnesses to the stand, according to the Ynet news site.