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Amid appeal over Hebron shooting, Elor Azarya to be transferred to house arrest

July 16, 2017 10:11 P.M. (Updated: July 17, 2017 12:27 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Elor Azarya, an Israeli soldier who was convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian as he lay wounded on the ground in March 2016, is expected to be transferred into house arrest in coming days, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Azarya was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Palestinian Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif. Azarya’s defense team has appealed both the manslaughter conviction and the 18-month jail sentence for being too harsh, while the Israeli military prosecution has submitted an appeal to increase the sentence.

A mediation process between the prosecution and the defense failed to yield a plea bargain in June.

According to The Times of Israel, Azarya’s military service term is set to end on Thursday, meaning that the soldier will no longer be able to remain confined to a military base -- unless in the unlikely event that a verdict is reached by then.

The Israeli news outlet reported that military prosecutors were not expected to rule in favor of Azarya being transferred to a civilian prison, meaning that he will likely be confined to house arrest until the end of the appeal process.

The prosecution has appealed the verdict claiming that Azarya’s sentence was not congruent with the ruling of the judges, who had given a detailed refutation of nearly every claim made by the defense team when they convicted him, and accepted the prosecution’s argument that the soldier committed an unjustified revenge killing.

However, the defense has argued that Azarya has been unfairly targeted and that his sentencing represents a “selective enforcement of the law,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Indeed, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented the fact that the problem is not the conduct of a single soldier, but an atmosphere of immunity from punishment for illegally killing Palestinians,” the rights group said in June.

“Responsibility for upholding ethical and legal norms doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of a single 20-year-old soldier, but also on the senior officials who sent him -- and too many others -- the wrong message regarding the use of deadly force.”

Al-Sharif was shot and seriously wounded after allegedly stabbing another Israeli soldier, and after he was left bleeding on the ground for some ten minutes, Azarya shot him in the head, with a number of witnesses quoting him as saying "This dog is still alive," and "This terrorist deserves to die" before he pulled the trigger.

Prior to the sentencing, the case had already been denounced as a “show trial” for focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces, as Azarya was charged with manslaughter for what was termed by rights groups as an “extrajudicial execution” and by the victim’s family as “cold-blooded murder.”

Following the announcement of the 18-month sentence, the al-Sharif family said they were "not surprised" by the lenient sentence -- noting that the soldier received less prison time than a Palestinian child would for throwing stones.

Azarya was the only member of Israeli forces to be charged with killing a Palestinian in 2016 -- when at least 109 Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli forces and settlers -- according to Human Rights Watch.

According to rights group Yesh Din, of the 186 criminal investigations opened by the Israeli army into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, just four yielded indictments.
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