Israel’s president rejects pardon request for soldier who shot downed Palestinian terrorist

Elior Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, Aug. 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin rejected a request to pardon a former Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing an injured Palestinian terrorist as he lay on the ground.

Rivlin rejected the request to pardon jailed soldier Elor Azaria, who is serving a reduced sentence of 14 months in prison for the murder.

Earlier this month, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sent a letter to Rivlin supporting a pardon and calling on the president to “show leniency and mercy” and to “put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society.”

Azaria, who has expressed no remorse for his actions, submitted a request for clemency to the president in October. In September, the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, shortened Azaria’s sentence to 14 months from 18 months. Eisenkot had earlier declined to pardon Azaria.

In his decision not to grant Azaria a pardon, Rivlin noted that the military court sentenced him leniently after taking issues raised by Azaria also in his pardon request into account, and passed a lighter sentence, one that was further shortened by Eisenkot.

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Rivlin also noted that “an additional lightening of your sentence would harm the resilience to the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel. The values of the Israel Defense Forces, and among them the Purity of Arms, are the core foundation of the strength of the Israel Defense Forces, and have always stood strong for us in the just struggle for our right to a safe, national home, and in the building a robust society.”

A medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, Azaria came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016. One assailant was killed and another, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head. The shooting was captured on video by a local affiliate of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Azaria was arrested that day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots fired by Azaria killed Sharif. Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.