Israeli soldier goes on trial for killing Palestinian

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria goes on trial for manslaughter after shooting a suspected Palestinian assailant while he was unarmed.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter by the Israeli military after he shot a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground in Hebron on March 24.

Sergeant Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot and killed a wounded Palestinian knifeman, went on trial on Monday for manslaughter.

Azaria, 19, is accused of using excessive force against  Abdel Fattah al Sharif, who was neutralised after allegedly attempting to attack Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in March.

Amateur footage later released by Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem showed the alleged attacker wounded and lying on the ground before he was shot dead.

Stating that the killing was against the law, B'’Tselem said ''the “execution without law and without trial is a direct result of impassioned discussion of ministers and elected officials and the public atmosphere of dehumanisation," and called for restricting reponses by the Israeli Army to alleged Palestinian attackers.

The United Nations harshly condemned the "gruesome" killing after the video of the shooting went viral on social media.

Palestinian officials have called the soldier's action cold-blooded murder, adding to allegations that Israel routinely carries out extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.

Israeli soldiers carry the dead body of a Palestinian whom they killed in Tal Rumaida in the West Bank city of Hebron, March 24, 2016.

Azaria, who is also a French citizen, was briefly freed from custody last month for the Jewish holiday of passover shortly after he was charged with manslaughter by a military court.

He is also being charged with "conduct unbecoming of a non-commissioned officer."

If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison, much to the displeasure of many Israelis.

According to a recent poll cited by Reuters, 57 percent of Israelis believe Azaria should never have been arrested.

Instead, almost 60,000 people have signed an online petition demanding Azaria be decorated for "heroism."

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria (C) is greeted by friends and relatives as he arrives at his home in the city of Ramle near Tel Aviv, April 22, 2016.

In his defence, Azaria’s lawyers have argued that he may have thought the attacker was wearing explosives, but the victim had reportedly already been checked for a suicide belt and no one in the video appears to be acting with caution towards him.

However, Israel’s defence minister, its military chief and other top officials previously described the incident as being contrary to the army's values.

Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have been escalating since 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 194 Palestinians have been killed. Israel claims that 133 of them were assailants.

Meanwhile, 28 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national have been killed in the violence.

TRTWorld and agencies