Family of unarmed Palestinian shot in head by Israeli soldier vows to go to The Hague

'We'll go after him in every international arena,' vows victim's uncle

Harriet Agerholm
Thursday 05 January 2017 13:05
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Palestinian man shot by Israeli soldier as he lies on the ground

The family of a Palestinian assailant shot dead by an Israeli soldier as he lay injured and immobilised on the ground, have called for his killer to be tried in an international court.

Sgt Elor Azaria was convicted of the manslaughter of Abed Fattah al-Sharif – a 21-year-old who had attacked an Israeli soldier – after being caught in the act on camera.

A Tel Aviv military court on Wednesday delivered the landmark ruling after a ten-month-long trial that had been beset by widespread protests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already called for Azaria to be pardoned, describing the manslaughter verdict as a "difficult and painful day for all of us – first and foremost for Sgt Azaria and his family, IDF [Israel Defence Forces] soldiers, many citizens and parents of soldiers, myself included".

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But, Fathi al-Sharif, Sharif’s uncle, said he was disappointed with a ruling of manslaughter, and pledged to have the case brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“We'll go after him [Azaria] in every international arena,” he told Haaretz.

“From the beginning, we stated that he had committed murder and needed to be convicted of murder.

“The fact that they changed the count of the indictment to manslaughter is a perversion of justice and of the court.”

He added that he thought that Azaria would be handed a light sentence given the resistance to the conviction demonstrated by Israel's right-wing.

President Reuven Rivlin has the authority to issue pardons to those convicted in the country, but has said he will wait for the completion of the legal process before making his decision.

Hundreds of angry Israelis gathered outside the court in support of Azaria ahead of the ruling on Wednesday, and the soldier's legal team have already announced they will appeal.

Among others demanding a pardon is Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

“Today a soldier who killed a terrorist who deserved to die, who had tried to slaughter a soldier, was put in handcuffs and convicted like a criminal,” he wrote on Facebook.

A spokesperson for the Azaria family, accused the court of “picking up the knife [used to attack an IDF soldier] from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers”.

But the Tel Aviv court said in its ruling: “One cannot use this type of force, even if we're talking about an enemy's life."

Azaria remained expressionless as his conviction was read aloud, but his mother yelled “you should be ashamed of yourselves” as the judges left.

The case is the first conviction of an Israeli soldier for killing a Palestinian since the start of a surge of violence that began in October 2015.

A report by Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din found the IDF opened 186 criminal investigations into suspected offences against Palestinians in 2015, but only four charges were brought as a result.

In 2015, 76 Palestinians died after clashes with soldiers in the West Bank, but only 21 deaths resulted in investigations, the group claimed.

According to the human rights watchdog, since October 2015 there have been at least 150 instances where security forces have fatally shot Palestinian adults and children suspected of violence against Israelis in Israel and the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Palestinian assailants have killed 33 Israelis, including passersby and security officials, in Israel and the West Bank.

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