Israeli soldier convicted in death of Palestinian assailant

TEL AVIV, January 5
An Israeli soldier was convicted of manslaughter on Wednesday in the deadly shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker, capping a nine-month saga that has deeply divided
the country.
The verdict, which marks an extremely rare case of an Israeli military court siding against a soldier over lethal action taken in the field, threatened to deepen the rift. Military commanders have condemned the soldier’s conduct while much of the public, along with leading members of the nationalist ruling coalition, have rallied behind him.
With Sgt Elor Azaria’s sentencing believed to be weeks away, the country now faces a heated debate over whether he deserves clemency.
Within minutes of the verdict, leading politicians were already calling for him to be pardoned.
Under Israeli law, the country’s largely ceremonial president has the authority to issue a pardon.
Azaria, an army medic, was caught on a cellphone video in March fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who had stabbed a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron. The Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was lying on the ground and already unarmed when Azaria shot him in the head.
In delivering the verdict, which lasted nearly three hours, Col. Maya Heller, head of a three-judge panel, rejected Azaria’s defense in painstaking detail. She said there was no evidence to support his claim that the attacker was already dead or that the man posed any threat at the time.
She said that Azaria’s testimony was “unreliable” and that he had “needlessly”
shot the assailant. She also said his defense witnesses were problematic.

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