The family of a disarmed Palestinian assailant shot dead by former IDF soldier Elor Azaria in March 2016 after he stabbed Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday said they had expected the military appellate court to let Azaria walk.
The court on Sunday upheld the manslaughter conviction and 18-month prison sentence for Azaria. Handing down the ruling, the panel of five judges ruled that Azaria had treated “the scene of a terror attack” like a shooting range, discounted his testimony, and rejected the defense’s argument that soldiers in similar situations had been let off.
The family of the Palestinian assailant Abdel Fattah al-Sharif said in a statement, “We were certain Elor Azaria would be exonerated” by the appellate court, Channel 2 news reported.
The family said it “opposes all forms of violence, by Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
Azaria fatally shot Sharif after the assailant was disarmed and seriously injured after having attacked two other IDF soldiers with a knife minutes earlier.
On January 4, a military court found Azaria, who recently completed his military service, guilty of manslaughter for killing Sharif. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a demotion to private.
Azaria had defended his actions saying he shot at Sharif in a snap decision believing the attacker, who he claimed was slightly moving, may have been armed with a hidden explosives vest or could have lunged for his knife, which was lying nearby. Prosecutors claimed there was no obvious danger from the critically injured attacker, who had been shot by another soldier, and that Azaria shot Sharif in the head to avenge his comrades, one of whom was injured in the attack.
A Palestinian activist for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem filmed the March 24, 2016, incident and the video became a key piece of evidence in the trial.
Judah Ari Gross and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.