Fierce row over killing of wounded attacker

November 24, 2016 23:21

The trial of Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian terrorist at point-blank range last Thursday, will not be an open-and-shut case.

The army's high command would like to throw the book at Corporal Azaria and make an example of him.

They are concerned that a streak of thuggishness is beginning to become more prominent among soldiers on the ground in the West Bank - Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot spoke out about it two months ago.

But despite an IDF debriefing over the weekend which concluded that the young combat medic had acted against orders, and despite the opinion of the officers on the scene that the wounded Al-Fatah Ashraf did not pose a threat, the military prosecutors are aware that it will be difficult to secure a murder or even a manslaughter conviction.

The full results of the autopsy will raise the question of whether Ashraf was dying anyway and there already seem to be discrepancies between the military debriefing and the view of Magen David Adom ambulance service, whose personnel claim they believed he could have been wearing an explosive belt.

Cpl Azaria's defence lawyers will use these points, but they could also pursue a more public case, arguing that prominent politicians and security figures have said many times in the past that a terrorist should not be allowed to emerge alive from the attack. They will point to numerous cases in which this has been the procedure and examples of wounded terrorists activating explosive devices.

The army is also worried about the political and public dimensions of the case. Right-wing leaders, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, were quick to offer their support both to Cpl Azaria and his family, accusing Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon - who spoke out forcefully against the killing - of jumping to conclusions and scapegoating the young soldier.

On Sunday, an angry exchange broke out between Mr Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both former special forces officers. Mr Netanyahu told him: "don't teach me about backing soldiers, I've lead more soldiers than you have".

November 24, 2016 23:21

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