Soldier convicted of Hebron shooting appeals jail sentence
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Soldier convicted of Hebron shooting appeals jail sentence

Most members of Elor Azaria’s defense team resign in disagreement with family

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone and wounded Palestinian assailant, in a case that has deeply divided Israel, sits with his parents as he waits for his sentence hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv January 24, 2017. (AFP/Debbie Hill)
IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone and wounded Palestinian assailant, in a case that has deeply divided Israel, sits with his parents as he waits for his sentence hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv January 24, 2017. (AFP/Debbie Hill)

A lawyer for Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting to death a subdued, wounded Palestinian stabber, on Wednesday appealed his 18-month military prison sentence.

Also filed was a motion requesting that Azaria’s entry into prison, set for March 5, be delayed until the end of the appeals process.

In a surprise move, three members of his defense team, Ilan Katz, Eyal Besserglick, and Karmit Shahiber announced they were resigning from the case after the appeal was filed, saying that they had disagreed with the family’s decision to pursue an appeal.

The lawyers said in a statement that they believed Azaria would have been better served by pursuing a different route, an apparent reference to plans to request a pardon from the president.

However, the Azaria family wants to have his name cleared, Israel Radio quoted the lawyers as saying.

Yoram Sheftel, another attorney, filed the appeal in place of the three others.

The case has bitterly divided Israel, with many, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for Azaria to be pardoned.

Azaria, 21, was convicted in January for the March 2016 shooting death of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who was lying on the ground wounded and disarmed minutes after stabbing a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria, a combat medic, was filmed shooting Sharif in the head.

Attorneys Ilan Katz, center, and Eyal Besserglick, right, the legal team of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria speak to press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv following a verdict on January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Attorneys Ilan Katz, center, and Eyal Besserglick, right, the legal team of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, speak to press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv following a verdict on January 4, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Another stabber, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, was killed in the course of the attack, which left one soldier lightly wounded.

In their verdict in January, military court judges found that Azaria, who shot Sharif dead after the Palestinian assailant had been lying on the ground for several minutes, was motivated by a desire for revenge.

Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, sits in the courtroom before the announcement of his verdict at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, sits in the courtroom before the announcement of his verdict at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Following the scathing decision read out when Azaria was found guilty, many saw the 18-month sentence as relatively light, leading to speculation that the defense team may drop its plans to appeal even as politicians pushed for Azaria to receive a full pardon.

In light of the appeal, analysts said that the prosecution might also now appeal the sentence, asking for a stiffer punishment. Prosecutors originally asked for three to five years.

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