What is the trial of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria?

An Israeli court is expected on Tuesday to sentence Elor Azaria, a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian attacker as he lay on the ground. Who is Azaria and why does the case matter? What did Azaria do? On March 24, 2016 French-Israeli Azaria, 21, was on a tour of duty in the southern West Bank, which Israel has occupied for 50 years. Two Palestinians...

al-monitor Israeli soldier Elor Azaria (centre) is flanked by his parents during his manslaughter trial at a military court in Tel Aviv, on January 31, 2017 Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP.

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Feb 20, 2017

An Israeli court is expected on Tuesday to sentence Elor Azaria, a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian attacker as he lay on the ground.

Who is Azaria and why does the case matter?

What did Azaria do?

On March 24, 2016 French-Israeli Azaria, 21, was on a tour of duty in the southern West Bank, which Israel has occupied for 50 years.

Two Palestinians stabbed another soldier in the city of Hebron. One was shot dead and the other, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was wounded.

Several minutes after the attack Azaria, who was not present during the incident, arrived at the scene and shot Sharif in the head without any apparent provocation.

The incident was caught on video by a rights group and widely shared, with Palestinian leaders labelling it an "execution."

The Israeli military arrested Azaria and opened prosecutions.

What happened at trial?

Over the course of the eight-month trial, Azaria's legal team argued he thought Sharif, 21, still posed a threat to the soldiers as he may have been wearing a suicide vest.

Conversely, they also argued he may already have been dead when he was shot by Azaria.

The prosecution said Azaria had shot Sharif on purpose without orders from his superiors and without provocation.

"I have read thousands of pages without ever finding in Israel or the world a single legal document that declares it legal to shoot at a person who has been shot and wounded for many minutes," prosecutor Nadav Weissman said in his summing up in November.

What did the court find?

On January 4 the court found Azari

a guilty of manslaughter, concluding there was no justification for his actions.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller called his testimony "evolving and evasive."

"His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die," she said.

Later that month the prosecution asked for a sentence of three to five years.

His family, however, pleaded for leniency, saying he had suffered enough during 10 months detained at a military base.

How has it affected Israel?

The trial has deeply divided the Jewish state, with right-wing politicians defending his actions despite top army brass condemning them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially condemned the killing but later, under pressure from rightwing ministers, called Azaria's father in an act of support.

After the January conviction, Netanyahu controversially announced he supported pardoning Azaria.

Any decision on a pardon would be made not by Netanyahu but President Reuven Rivlin.

The army leadership, however, has argued it is important for the institution's reputation to punish those who transgress.

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