Trial begins for soldier who killed disarmed stabber
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Trial begins for soldier who killed disarmed stabber

Elor Azaria faces manslaughter charges for March 24 shooting; new footage casts doubt on his claim wounded assailant was in reach of knife

Sgt. Elor Azaria, accused of killing a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month, arrives for a court hearing at Jaffa Military Court on April 18, 2016. (Flash90)
Sgt. Elor Azaria, accused of killing a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month, arrives for a court hearing at Jaffa Military Court on April 18, 2016. (Flash90)

The trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who faces manslaughter charges for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron in March, will begin later Monday at the Jaffa Military Court.

Azaria is accused of violating the rules of engagement when he shot and killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif on March 24, who a short time beforehand participated in a stabbing attack on Israeli troops.

Al-Sharif and another assailant stabbed and wounded one soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding al-Sharif and killing the second attacker.

Graphic footage from the scene showed a wounded al-Sharif still alive minutes later, and then Azaria shooting him in the head. Azaria was arrested, with rights groups labeling his action a summary execution.

He was indicted for manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct in the Jaffa Military Court on April 18.

Azaria is expected remain in custody until the legal proceedings end.

On Sunday night, Channel 2 aired footage of the moments leading up to the shooting that contradicts the soldier’s testimony that the attacker still posed a threat to the lives of the troops around him.

Immediately after the incident, the 19-year-old sergeant told military police that, “When I looked at him I saw that he was moving his head, and his hand was within reach of the knife he used in the stabbing — the black knife. He moved his hand towards the knife.”

But the new video clip, aired by Channel 2 on Sunday, showed the black knife in question at least a meter away from the incapacitated assailant. appearing to contradict those claims.

A wounded assailant lying some distance from a knife in Hebron on March 24, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
A wounded assailant lying some distance from a knife in Hebron on March 24, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

Azaria also claimed after the shooting that he had been suspicious of the fact that al-Sharif was wearing an oversized jacket, which the soldier said could have been concealing a bomb.

A wounded assailant lying some distance from a knife in Hebron on March 24, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
A wounded assailant lying some distance from a knife in Hebron on March 24, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

But the new video shows that several other soldiers and paramedics at the scene were also wearing coats on that March morning in the West Bank.

Channel 2 said the footage would be presented by prosecutors at Azaria’s trial, which starts at Jaffa Military court on Monday, in an effort to cement a criminal conviction against the 19-year-old sergeant.

An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot an apparently unarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B'Tselem)
An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot an apparently unarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B’Tselem)

The case has sparked much controversy and inflamed political tensions in Israel. Despite strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, the defense minister and the chief of staff, far-right supporters and some politicians have accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.

Chief Military Advocate General Sharon Afek has enlisted a prominent private sector attorney, Lt. Col. (res) Nadav Weisman, to join the team prosecuting Azaria. The move, reported in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last week, indicates the army has no intention of offering Azaria a plea bargain.

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