In this image, Azarya is treating the lightly wounded Israeli soldier. His name is written on his gunstrap. His commander, Lt. Col. David Shapira, stands next to him in a black helmet. (Tikum Olam)

Israeli soldier who killed al-Sharif to be released

PNN/Jerusalem

An Israeli military court ruled on Friday to release Israeli occupation forces (IOF) soldier El-Or Azarya, who shot and killed Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron last week, Israeli sources report.

According to the Jpost, the Israeli military court at the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Kirya compound in Tel Aviv issued the ruling after rejecting the prosecution’s appeal filed early Friday morning, requesting the Israeli soldier to remain in military police custody for an additional seven days.

In the appeal, military prosecutors argue that El-Or Azarya has declined to cooperate with investigators and has given contradictory versions of the events, the Times of Israel reported.

The court released the soldier from custody to supervised detention at a military base on Thursday.

According to the Israeli media, El-Or Azarya will not, however, be allowed to rejoin his battalion, nor will he be permitted to have a weapon.

In its appeal against the decision to let the soldier leave prison, the prosecution claimed that El-Or Azarya was not cooperating with investigators, even though his lawyers initially said he had promised to reenact the shooting and confront the soldiers who testified against him, as stated by Ynet News.

The appeal also stated that “the soldier claimed several times during investigation that the attacker tried to reach for a knife that was ‘within reaching distance,’ while the video [of the assassination] paints a different picture, that the knife was a significant distance from the attacker, who was himself in serious condition. He gave evasive answers during investigation whenever he was confronted with anomalies in his version of events. The soldier’s [shifting] version raises serious doubts about the credibility of the defense arguments, to say the least.”

On Thursday, the IOF ruled that he would be tried on charges of manslaughter, and not, as had been widely expected, those of murder.

According to Haaretz, Israeli military prosecutor Aduram Riegler told the Israeli military court on Thursday that El-Or Azarya was suspected of deliberately shooting al-Sharif “without need from an operational standpoint.”

Riegler said, during the hearing, that evidence indicated that contrary to the soldier’s claims, he had not shot al-Sharif out of fear for his life.

“In response to a question by the company commander, who was there and stood near the terrorist and asked the suspect why he opened fire, the suspect replied: ‘the terrorist was alive, he deserved to die,'” Haaretz quoted Riegler as saying.

“These quotes contain no claims of a life-threatening situation, and show the suspect’s motives and his mood in real time. As we know the suspect’s version (suggesting a life-threatening situation) developed at a later stage,” he said.

On the same day, a video showing El-Or Azarya executing an injured Palestinian in Hebron went viral.

The video, recorded by B’Tselem rights group, showed the soldier, surrounded by others, approaching the Palestinian as he laid critically wounded on the ground and seconds later shooting him on his head, killing him.

One of the settlers said to the soldiers: “This asshole here is still breathing.”