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Israeli soldier on trial for killing ‘prone Palestinian’

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria (R), who was caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay on the ground, is comforted by his mother during a hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2016.  Azria, who also holds French citizenship, was charged with manslaughter and unbecoming conduct over the March 24 killing that took place in the southern West Bank city Hebron. A widely circulated video showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another man after stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier minutes earlier, according to the army. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ



An Israeli soldier went on trial before a military court on Monday, charged with manslaughter after he was caught on video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank two months ago.
The rare case of an active serviceman being charged has polarized Israel, with defense officials criticizing the soldier’s conduct and large segments of the Israeli public rallying behind him.
The hearings opened on Monday before the military court in the coastal city of Jaffa where Sgt. Elor Azaria sat in the defendant’s bench as his mother wrapped her arms around him to comfort him.
At the time of the March incident, the military said two Palestinians had been shot and killed while carrying out a stabbing attack that wounded an Israeli soldier. But a video released later by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem showed one of the attackers still alive after the initial shooting and Azaria firing at his head. An autopsy determined the shot to the head was the cause of death.
The incident took place amid months of Palestinian attacks that have killed and wounded scores of Israeli security forces and civilians.
“The truth will come out. The path will be long. We will endure,” said Binyamin Malka, a defense lawyer for Azaria. The soldier’s defense team has said that he acted as expected from a combat soldier and that the defense would seek a full acquittal.
Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force against attackers who have already been halted or wounded, and in some cases, of killing innocent civilians. Activists have released a handful of amateur videos supporting the Palestinian claims, but the Hebron shooting is perhaps the strongest evidence of Israeli wrongdoing so far. Also Monday, a Jewish settler group said it took over a multistory building in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
It was the latest move by nationalist Jews to acquire properties in Arab areas of Jerusalem to ensure the area remains in Israeli hands under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Some 1,000 Jews have moved into Arab areas of the Old City since the 1980s.
About four Palestinian families previously lived in the building that was taken over Monday, said Daniel Luria of the Ateret Cohanim settler group. He said three or four Jewish families, along with religious studies students, will move into the building after renovations.

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