An 18-month jail sentence handed down to an Israel Defence Force (IDF) recruit for the killing of a wounded Palestinian has prompted for widespread criticism for its apparent leniency in light of the severity of his crime.
Then 19-year-old medic Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting 21-year-old Palestinian knife attacker Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head after the assailant had already been disarmed and injured in an incident in Hebron last year.
The killing was filmed by an onlooker using a mobile phone in footage that was widely shared by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
While prosecutors sought a term of between three and five years in jail, Azaria was given 18 months in prison, 12 months’ probation and was demoted from Sergeant to Private. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison under Israeli law.
The ruling was a landmark case insofar as no member of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried out in uniform in over 12 years.
However, Palestinians and rights activists have widely criticised the sentencing as not severe enough.
It is possible that Azaria could walk free after serving 12 months of the sentence, and there have been several high-profile calls for the young recruit to be pardoned altogether.
His lawyers’ claims of self-defence are supported by 65 per cent of the Jewish Israeli public, an August survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found.
Al-Sharif’s father Yusri told reporters from his home in the West Bank that the family had never expected the Tel Aviv military court “show trial” to do the deceased man justice.
“Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold-blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years.