Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel’s military chief of staff on Wednesday reduced the sentence of a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant by four months, the army said.
The move cut Elor Azaria’s sentence from 18 to 14 months after the soldier pleaded for leniency, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told AFP.
Azaria was convicted in a military trial that deeply divided the country and began his sentence in August.
Military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot had repeatedly denounced Azaria’s actions, putting him at odds with right-wing politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called for the soldier to be released.
“Despite the fact that it is clear from the words of the chief of staff that Azaria’s actions were contrary to the code of conduct and to the values of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) … he decided to do so out of consideration of the fact that he is a combat soldier and a warrior” who had “endured a lot,” Conricus said of the reduction.
The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.
It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.
Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.
He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.