Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who cold-bloodily killed a wounded Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2016, was released on Tuesday, May 8, after serving only nine months in prison. According to Haaretz, his release was brought forward by two days following Azaria’s request so that he could attend his brother’s wedding.
On 24 March 2016, Azaria shot al-Sharif in the head as the latter lay on the ground following a reported stabbing of another solider. The extrajudicial execution of the Palestinian was captured on video by B ‘Tselem.
An Israeli military court convicted Azaria of manslaughter and sentenced him to 18 months in jail, which Israel’s military Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, later shortened by four months. In March, the military parole board cut Azaria’s sentence by a third for “good behavior.”
Far-right cabinet ministers expressed their delight Tuesday at the release from military prison of a former Israeli soldier who was convicted of manslaughter for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant. Some of the ministers commented that Azaria’s criminal record should be wiped clean.
Hadash lawmakers denounced the open support expressed by cabinet members for Azaria, who walked free after completing nine months of his 18-month sentence. Calling Azaria a murderer, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) said the support shown by senior government officials would encourage other Israeli soldiers to commit similar crimes.
“A government that embraces heinous murderers and praises their release is a government that is laying the ground and giving a green light for the next murder,” she said in a statement. “The murder [Azaria] carried out with his own hands is in fact a murder that was committed by all those who continue to incite, in every direction, against the Palestinian people and against the Arab public. It is galling to see Azaria free after only nine months in prison,” she continued. “His release today sends a difficult message that Palestinian blood is cheap.”
Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen, also of the Joint List, said, “The forgiving and sympathetic attitude that we are witness to in the Azaria saga, which reached a climax today with his release, has transformed Azaria from a murderer into a hero, and in practice sanctions the next murder.”