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Israeli Soldier who Shot Incapacitated Terrorist Sentenced; Reactions Mixed

The Israeli army medic who shot a Palestinian terrorist who had already been subdued after attacking soldiers with a knife was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his manslaughter conviction. The case of Sgt. Elior Azaria shook the nation and had an immediate polarizing effect. Many Israelis and right wing politicians called for Azaria’s release, arguing that beyond the need to stand by the army, the punishment would have a dangerous by-product in the form of soldiers’ hesitation to shoot when necessary out of fear of prosecution. Others were livid at what they argued was a farcical sentence for a defendant found guilty of killing someone who was handcuffed at the time. But in a country where all men and women enter the army at the age of 18 and serve three (two for women) years, every family saw the possibility of its own son or daughter being in the same position as the Azaria family. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who opposed bringing Azaria to trial, immediately called for a swift pardon arguing that imprisoning Azaria will unleash new violence by terrorists emboldened by the action against the soldier. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman put a quick end to talk of a pardon and urged everyone to “move on” albeit without losing sight of the fact that the incident pits “an excellent soldier on one side and a terrorist aiming to kill Jews on the other.” Palestinians typically reacted angrily, calling an 18-month sentence for a manslaughter conviction “a farce.”