A former second-in-command of the Israeli army told a court on Monday that terrorists should be killed and are “fated to die.”
Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, nephew of famed general Moshe Dayan, was testifying before a military court in support of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who faces manslaughter charges for killing a disarmed and seriously injured Palestinian attacker in March.
“Terrorists need to be killed,” Dayan said.
He added that, while serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he himself had allowed the killing of terrorists even if they didn’t pose any danger.
Azaria is standing trial after being filmed shooting Palestinian assailant Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head on March 24, nearly 15 minutes after Sharif was shot by soldiers after he tried to stab them in Hebron.
The soldier testified in July that he feared al-Sharif’s body was fitted with a bomb.
Dayan, the latest in a line of witnesses called by Azaria’s defense team, questioned whether the trial was doing more harm than good, while admitting he didn’t know if Azaria was right or not.
“I don’t deal with the question of what happened, but am worried about what will be. As I understand it, each day of discussions like these causes damage and that’s why I came here.”
Both Dayan and General Dan Biton, who gave evidence after him, said it’s up to the soldier in the field to determine whether a situation is dangerous.
Also Monday, Azaria’s father appeared in court for the first time since suffering a stroke. Supported by others as he entered the hearing, a weeping Charlie Azaria embraced his son for a considerable time.
The highly charged case has sent ripples through Israeli society and politics, where protecting the army and soldiers has been deeply embedded in the national psyche for decades.
While the army has insisted Azaria be prosecuted for what detractors call an extrajudicial killing, some on the right have insisted he was a “hero” and have accused the IDF of selling him down the river.
Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who took up the post after the Azaria trial began, said — referring specifically to the case — that Israel must support its soldiers under all circumstances, “even if one of them makes a mistake.”
At the end of the day, Liberman stressed, “we are talking about 18-19 year olds.
“We should remember, all of us, including members of the media, public figures and politicians, that, until you are convicted in court, you are innocent,” he added.
Liberman, who, prior to becoming defense minister, vocally supported Azaria, has dialed back his rhetoric since taking up the position.
The defense minister said he expects the military court trying Azaria to “ignore the noise from the left and from the right,” when it hands down its decision.