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Israeli court confirms manslaughter charge for soldier behind Hebron 'execution'

April 14, 2016 2:50 P.M. (Updated: April 14, 2016 11:26 P.M.)
A file photo of Israeli security standing guard outside an Israeli court. (AFP/Jack Guez, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli military court confirmed on Thursday that it would charge an Israeli soldier with manslaughter over the high-profile killing of a Palestinian in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron in March.

The killing of Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, on March 24, sparked widespread outrage after footage by Israeli rights group B’Tselem showed an Israeli soldier shooting al-Sharif in the head while the young Palestinian was lying wounded on the ground after allegedly stabbing an Israeli soldier.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to Ma’an’s request for comment.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the prosecution officially announced on Thursday in front of the Jaffa military court that it would seek manslaughter charges against the soldier, identified by media outlets not bound by Israel’s gag orders as French-Israeli citizen Elor Azarya.

The prosecution requested an extension of the soldier’s remand to give themselves time to present an indictment on Monday, Haaretz reported.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, a small group of Azarya’s supporters demonstrated outside the courtroom, chanting “whoever kills terrorists is an Israeli hero.”

The manslaughter charge is a significant but expected downgrade after it was initially believed that the court would pursue murder charges.

An autopsy earlier this month confirmed that al-Sharif was still alive before a bullet fired at his head at point-blank range by Azarya killed him.

Al-Sharif’s family has announced that they would file legal procedures against the Israeli army in front of an Israeli court, not long after Azarya was moved into open detention on a military base.

The international community has reacted in the wake of al-Sharif's killing, expressing worries that it might be part of a broader Israeli "shoot to kill" policy against Palestinian suspected attackers.

"We are concerned this killing may not be a lone incident," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville said in a recent statement, adding that "all incidents where security forces have caused death or injury should be fully investigated, and those responsible brought to account."

Rights groups have also repeatedly criticized Israel for offering impunity to Israelis who harm Palestinians.

Despite his initial condemnation of the killing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later backtracked under pressure from Israel’s prominent right-wing political community.

Al-Sharif was among the more than 200 Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.

The unrest has been marked by a surge of small-scale attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals -- predominantly on Israeli military targets -- which have left nearly 30 Israelis dead, with the majority of suspected Palestinian attackers shot dead on site.
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