TEL AVIV – The family of a soldier accused of murdering a “neutralized” Palestinian terrorist charged that the IDF has abandoned him and expressed fears that the soldier will not receive a fair trial.
In an unprecedented televised press conference, the sister of Elior Azaria read a short statement accusing the military and political system of failing her brother.
“You send a child to protect the people of Israel, and then condemn him when something terrible happens,” she said.
“Think what will happen tomorrow when a soldier is confronted by a [terrorist] wanting to cause harm. Today it is my brother, tomorrow it might be a new recruit,” she added.
Military Police on Thursday arrested the soldier who was seen shooting Palestinian terrorist Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, who was lying wounded on the ground in a street in Hebron.
An Arab volunteer for the NGO B’Tselem, who lives near the scene of the incident, filmed the shooting and the video quickly went viral, drawing condemnations from left and right. Moments before the shooting, al-Sharif and an accomplice had carried out a stabbing attack against soldiers.
Below is the video capturing the shooting.
The Israeli army opened an investigation into the incident and, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the soldier could be facing murder charges.
Azaria told military police during questioning that he shot the terrorist because he thought he might be carrying a bomb. Another clip shows that, moments before the shooting, paramedics voiced the same concerns. However, the military maintains that even if the soldier believed the assailant to be armed with an explosive device, the protocol is to evacuate the scene immediately. Shots from a gun could also set the bomb off.
The soldier’s sister addressed IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, telling them she “fears that [Azaria] will not receive a just trial.”
Shortly after the Azaria family’s press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a statement in defense of the IDF on his Facebook page.
“The IDF is a moral army that does not execute people,” Netanyahu said.
“IDF soldiers have absorbed with their bodies the murderous terror attacks against Israeli citizens and deserve support,” he added.
With regard to Thursday’s incident, he said, “I trust the IDF will conduct a thorough, responsible and fair investigation, as it always does.”
Azaria’s sister took to her own Facebook page earlier in the day, saying the charges against her brother were “absurd” and the family was “appalled” by his arrest.
“The system accuses my brother of murder after a terrorist had come to kill him,” she wrote. “I’m not sure if the [army] is aware of this absurdity. … Our loving family is appalled.”
“We sent the army this amazing, sensitive, smart, and patriotic kid. … He was [in the army] out of a sense of mission. He always told me, ‘I am proud to serve my country,’ ” she added.
“It didn’t happen during a field trip, nor during a training drill, it happened at the scene of an attack. My little brother, who was brought in cuffs to military court, did not expect to get a medal for killing the terrorist. He did [however] expect due process and we were expecting minimal support,” she wrote in the Facebook post that was shared thousands of times.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said hours after the event that “this is not the culture of the IDF, not the culture of the Jewish people, and not connected to military framework in any way.”
Yesh Atid party chairman MK Ofer Shelach asserted that “the murderous cruelty of the terrorists is not a reason for the IDF to abandon its values.”
“These senior officials have abandoned my little brother … and he is being used as a scapegoat,” the soldier’s sister wrote.
The soldier said in a conversation with family members after his arrest that he feared the terrorist was going to try to attack other soldiers. “He wore a thick coat and therefore I feared that he would stand and detonate an explosive belt.”
“After I saw the terrorist move,” the soldier continued, “I shot him. I just feared that the terrorist would blow himself up.”
The soldier’s lawyer told Army Radio that his client was “not guilty” of any wrongdoing and urged the public “not to forget who was defending” them.