Israeli soldier charged for killing wounded Palestinian

Israeli military court charges soldier with manslaughter for killing wounded Palestinian Abdel Fattah al Sharif

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A picture taken on March 29, 2016 shows Israeli soldier Elor Azria (C) sitting in a military court during a hearing in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malakhi.

An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last month was charged with manslaughter by a military court on Monday.

"The accused violated the rules of engagement without operational justification as the terrorist was lying on the ground wounded and represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present," the manslaughter indictment said.

The soldier was also charged with conduct unbecoming of his rank and position in the army.

The military had initially claimed two Palestinians stabbed and wounded a soldier before troops killed the pair.

Amateur footage later released by Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem showed alleged Palestinian knife attacker Abdel Fattah al Sharif wounded and lying on the ground in Hebron in the West Bank on March 24.

In the video Sharif is seen to be first ignored by medical staff and Israeli soldiers, after which a soldier shoot at his head at close range while he was still alive and defenceless.

The 19-year-old soldier seen in the video, Elor Azria, also has French citizenship.

He will be freed from custody to spend one night with his family at the beginning of the Jewish festival of Passover on Friday.

The Israeli soldier’s lawyers have argued that the soldier may have thought the Palestinian was wearing explosives but he was reportedly already checked for a suicide belt and no one in the video appears to be acting with caution towards him.

The United Nations harshly condemned the "gruesome" killing of the wounded Palestinian teen by an Israeli soldier, after a video of the shooting went viral.

Israeli soldiers carry the dead body of one of two Palestinians whom the Israeli military said were shot dead by Israeli troops after allegedly attacking an Israeli soldier, in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 24, 2016. (Reuters)

The shooting of al Sharif has polarised Israeli society. The country's defence minister, its military chief and other top officials called the incident contrary to the army's values.

Yet an opinion poll last month found 57 percent of Israelis think the soldier should never have been arrested. Almost 60,000 people have signed an online petition demanding he be decorated for "heroism."

Right-wing politicians have rushed to the soldier's defence. A second video released on March 27 by B'Tselem showed the soldier who shot Sharif in the first video shaking hands with Baruch Marzel, a well-known ultra-nationalist settler leader, after the shooting.

Azria’s family and supporters have planned a rally for Tuesday with the slogan "you don't abandon a warrior" in Tel Aviv.

The soldier was originally held on a murder warrant. He could be fined up to 20 years of jail for the lighter manslaughter charge.

Israeli right-wing demonstrators take part in a protest to support an Israeli soldier arrested after he shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron, in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2016. The sign reads "Combat soldier, the people are with you." (Reuters)

The conflict in Palestine and Israel has been escalating for the last 5 months after Israeli troops stormed Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, attacking civilian Muslim worshippers and damaging the mosque.

Since the beginning of October 2015 at least 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national have been killed in the violence.

The Palestinian Red Crescent has said in a statement in late February that at least 15,645 Palestinians had been injured by Israeli gunfire, 1,418 of whom were struck by heavy ammunition, while another 3,153 have sustained injuries from rubber bullets.

TRTWorld and agencies