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Military court upholds Israeli soldier's manslaughter conviction, giving him minor sentence

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head. [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2017

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An Israeli military court on Sunday upheld a manslaughter conviction and 18-month sentence for a soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian at point-blank range last year.

An Israeli military court on Sunday upheld a manslaughter conviction and 18-month sentence for a soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian at point-blank range last year.

In March 2016, footage emerged of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shooting Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in the head as he lay wounded on the ground following an alleged stabbing attack in Hebron.

There was no apparent provocation for the shooting, with al-Sharif incapacitated.

The French-Israeli soldier was convicted in January and sentenced the following month, in a case which deeply divided Israeli society.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately responded to Sunday's ruling by repeating his call for a pardon for the soldier.

"My opinion has not changed when it comes to granting pardon to Elor Azaria and remains consistent to what I said after the verdict," Netanyahu said on Twitter.

"When the subject is discussed concretely, I will give my recommendation to the competent authorities."

The Israeli military judges rejected also rejected an appeal by prosecutors to increase the sentence for Azaria, Israeli media reported.

The soldier had appealed his initial sentencing, while military prosecutors had initially requested a jail term of between three and five years.

He completed his mandatory three-year military service on July 20 and was moved to house arrest. His imprisonment had been postponed pending his appeal.

Azaria can still appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, but Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on him not to and instead request a pardon from the military chief of staff.

'Shoot to kill'

The Israeli soldier's trial has highlighted deep divisions in Israeli public opinion, with the political far-right lauding Azaria as a hero.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the shooting is further evidence of a shoot-to-kill policy in the occupied West Bank, with complete impunity for Israeli forces.

"It's not just about potentially rogue soldiers, but also about senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill," Human Rights Watch said earlier this year.

Amnesty International has said Azaria's sentence is "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".

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

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