‘Hebron Shooter’ Elor Azaria Released After Nine Months In Israeli Prison

Former Israel Defense Forces soldier Elor Azaria was released from prison after serving a nine-month sentence for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016. The incident gained international notoriety when footage showing Azaria shooting Abdel Fatah al-Sharif went viral. The victim minutes earlier had attempted to stab members of Azaria’s unit and was subdued, lying face-down on the ground, when struck by a bullet in the head. For his part, Azaria claimed that he acted in self-defense, fearing al-Sharif was concealing an explosive vest. Azaria’s trial—which many Israelis likened to O.J. Simpson’s because of its national impact—divided both the political arena and public, with some hailing the soldier as a hero and defender of the state, and others viewing him as a cold-blooded murderer embodying alleged Israeli violations against Palestinians. Adding fuel to the debate is that Azaria’s sentence, considered by the latter cohort as lenient to begin with, was reduced from eighteen to fourteen months last September by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot; this, before he was granted early release by a parole board for good behavior (Azaria was supposed to be set free on Thursday but was let out two days early so that he could attend his brother’s wedding). While many politicians called for the outright commutation of Azaria’s sentence, such a request was earlier this year denied by President Reuven Rivlin. Echoing the sentiment of many Israelis, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday asserted prior to departing on a trip to Cyprus that he is “glad this thing is over with.”

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