Elor Azaria, an army medic, was 19 at the time he shot dead the wounded Palestinan man.
Elor Azaria, an army medic, was 19 at the time he shot dead the wounded Palestinan man.

A military court in Tel Aviv on Tuesday sentenced Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria, who shot and killed a severely wounded Palestinian man last year, to 18 months in jail. The prosecution had asked for three to five years.

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter in one of the more divisive trials in Israel's history. On March 24, 2016, he shot dead Abdul Fattah al-Sharif, who lay injured in the street after he stabbed an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank.

The sentencing is a "green light" for the military's "crimes," the Palestinian government responded on Tuesday.

"The Palestinian government views this light ruling against the murderer soldier as a green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes," spokesman Tarek Rishmawi said shortly after the Israeli military court issued the sentence.

However, even a shorter than expected jail term triggered disappointment from protesters who had gathered outside the Tel Aviv court and had hoped to see the soldier walk free. Azaria's defenders said he shot the assailant in self-defense, and hard-line politicians have said he should be either cleared or released with a light penalty.

His detractors, including senior military commanders, have said his actions violated military procedures.

TRT World's Gregg Carlstrom has more details from Tel Aviv.

Azaria's case split public opinion in Israel, but according to one poll, the majority including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported a presidential pardon.

Manslaughter in Israel carries a maximum sentence of twenty years but the prosecution had asked for less, noting Azaria had shot a Palestinian who only minutes earlier had carried out an attack.

Snapshot of the trial

At the trial, Azaria said he believed the Palestinian, though motionless, still posed a danger because his knife was nearby, and that he might have been carrying explosives. "He deserves to die," Azaria was quoted in the verdict as telling another soldier after pulling the trigger.

At the sentencing, Chief Judge Maya Heller said that Azaria "took upon himself to be both judge and executioner".

It was not immediately clear if Azaria's lawyers, who had said after the verdict last month that they intended to appeal his conviction, would still proceed along that path.

"For me, a just verdict will be one that is similar to the verdicts our sons receive, which is a life sentence," Yusri al-Sharif, father of Abdul Fattah said before the sentencing.

Azaria may not have been convicted if there was no footage of the killing. The video shows Abdul Fattah lying on a street in Hebron. The footage shows Azaria take aim and pull the trigger.

TRT World's James Champion reports.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies