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Majority of Israelis support pardon for 'executioner soldier'

The trial has deeply divided the Jewish state, with right-wing politicians defending Azaria's actions [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 February, 2017

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More than half of Israelis think an 18 month jail sentence for a soldier who shot dead an injured Palestinian is "too severe" and that he be granted a pardon.
More than half of Israelis think an 18 month jail sentence handed down to a soldier who shot dead an injured Palestinian man was "too severe" a survey has shown.

The study published in the Israeli daily Maariv on Wednesday revealed that most Israelis believe Elor Azaria should be pardoned for his crime of killing Abdul Fatah al-Sharif as he lay on the ground several minutes after he and another Palestinian had allegedly stabbed a soldier.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they thought the 21-year-old soldier's sentence was "too severe", 29 percent thought it was "an appropriate punishment", only 11 percent said it was "too light" and four percent said they had no opinion on the matter.

Sixty-nine percent of the 500 people polled by Panels Politics research centre also said they supported Azaria being pardoned for his manslaughter conviction.

On Tuesday, an Israeli military court sentenced Azaria to a year and a half in prison for killing Sharif.

The shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and was spread widely online.

It showed Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian. Azaria then shoots him again in the head without any apparent provocation.

57% of respondents said they thought the soldier's sentence was 'too severe'

The trial has deeply divided the Jewish state, with right-wing politicians defending his actions despite top army brass condemning them.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu initially condemned the killing but later, under pressure from right-wing ministers, called Azaria's father in an act of support.

Netanyahu has controversially announced he supports pardoning Azaria.

Sharif's family has reacted angrily to the sentencing, labelling the trial a "farce".

"A year and a half is a farce," Sharif's father Yusri said. "It is only a mock trial to silence people and the families."

"If one of us (a Palestinian) killed an animal they would have sentenced him for only God knows how long."

Magdalena Mughrabi from Amnesty International said in a statement that Azaria's conviction a month ago had "offered a glimmer of hope for accountability for unlawful killings by Israeli forces".

"(But) the 18-month sentence for Elor Azaria does not reflect the gravity of the offence."

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