Parents of Hebron shooter berate ex-defense minister at synagogue
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Parents of Hebron shooter berate ex-defense minister at synagogue

Azaria family repeatedly accuse Moshe Ya’alon of selling out their son for political reasons, are asked to leave

Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at a cultural event in Ra'anana on July 15, 2017. (Flash90)
Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks at a cultural event in Ra'anana on July 15, 2017. (Flash90)

The parents of Elor Azaria, the Israeli solider who was convicted of  manslaughter for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian attacker two years ago, angrily confronted the former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon this week.

The Azarias attended an event in a synagogue in Givat Shmuel where Ya’alon was speaking and proceeded to berate him in front of the audience, claiming that he and the rest of the defense establishment abandoned their son.

“How is that you lied and said after the military police investigation that my son stinks? How could you have sold out an outstanding solider?” Oshrat Azaria, the ex-soldier’s mother, asked, according to a Hadashot TV report. “How is it that you were talking to the media by 4 pm and our son wasn’t even questioned until 6:30 that day?

“There hasn’t even been a real investigation,” she charged. “It’s been two and a half years and I’m still waiting for an answer. You’re just trying to promote yourself.”

The report quoted eyewitnesses who said the Azarias would not let the former defense minister get a word in, and were eventually asked to leave the premises.

The father, Charlie Azaria, also confronted Ya’alon, asking him why he continued “to slander the name of my son any my family… All of my children and I have served in the IDF; I’ve given 33 years to defending this country.”

Elor Azaria (r) smiles next to far-right activist Baruch Marzel in his return to Hebron on July 3, 2018. (Screen capture/Haverim Laset Tzara organization)

Ya’alon eventually was able to respond to the couple, who had sat in the front row with their daughter. Azaria’s mother had been invited to ask the first question after Ya’alon spoke, but instead the Azarias launched a loud, toxic attack, in what was a premeditated incident that was especially inappropriate in a synagogue, Ya’alon’s spokesman said.

Responding, he told them of his sorrow that their son’s deeply divisive trial had been exploited politically.

“It’s something that’s being used cynically and politically at your expense. I know your suffering, I remember calling you after the verdict was handed down,” he said. “But enough, it’s over.”

“There were no questions being asked there, but a series of loud, false, and venomous attacks that desecrated the synagogue,” Ya’alon said.

Several hours later, Ya’alon responded to the incident in a statement, blasting the Azarias for trying to instigate a public confrontation. “Their claims are based on ‘alternative facts,’ not to mention all out lies. Any attempts to present the real facts to the family were interrupted rudely.”

Azaria, the so-called “Hebron shooter,” was found guilty by an IDF military court last year of killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who several minutes earlier had attacked two IDF soldiers with a knife. In February 2017, Azaria was sentenced to an 18-month prison term, which IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot later shortened by four months. He was released from a military jail in May.

Azaria has never expressed remorse for his actions. He has maintained that he opened fire because he believed Sharif had a bomb hidden under his clothes. The military court, however, dismissed that claim, 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.

The Hebron shooter 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 harshly criticized Azaria for breaking the law, saying he deserved a harsher sentence than he received.

IDF soldier Elor Azaria, right, convicted on the manslaughter of a wounded Palestinian, is embraced by his mother Oshrat at the start of his sentencing hearing in a military court in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ JIM HOLLANDER)

In the face of strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, including IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot and then-defense minister Ya’alon, far-right supporters and some politicians had accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.

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