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Lawyers of Israeli soldier call for acquittal in Hebron shooting trial

Israeli forces evacuate the body of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif. He was executed by an Israeli soldier as he lay on the ground, already wounded, in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016
Israeli forces evacuate the body of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif. He was executed by an Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, as he lay on the ground, already wounded, in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24 2016. [File photo]

The defence team of Elor Azarya called for the Israeli soldier to be exonerated of all charges for shooting a Palestinian in the head at point blank range in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in March, Israeli media reported yesterday.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Azarya’s lawyers argued that the trial had confirmed the soldier’s version of events, which stated that Azarya shot Abdul-Fattah Al-Sharif at point-blank range after the Palestinian had already been shot and severely wounded after allegedly attempting to stab another Israeli soldier, because Azarya believed Al-Sharif could have reached for a knife or had been concealing explosives underneath his jacket.

However, Azarya’s version has been thoroughly contradicted during the trial by his commanders and experts who stated that Al-Sharif did not constitute a threat at the time of his death, and that him wearing a jacket was not suspicious given the weather that day.

Claims that the young Palestinian could have reached for a knife were also dispelled after new video footage surfaced in June, capturing events after Azarya executed Al-Sharif, showing an Israeli ambulance driver kicking the knife towards the body, which had been far out of arm’s reach.

Azarya’s lawyers said his commanders were the ones who had not acted properly in the case and accused them of putting the blame on the soldier to deflect scrutiny.

Weeks into Azarya’s trial, reports emerged that the second Palestinian killed alongside Al-Sharif was also shot in the head execution style. However, no trial has reportedly been opened in the case.

The final verdict in the case is expected to be issued in the next two weeks, the Jerusalem Post said.

The high-profile case drew unprecedented international condemnation toward the Israeli army, after a video clip was immediately released showing the brutal killing. However, large numbers of Israelis have also come out in support of the soldier.

Following the March 25 shooting, Amnesty International said that the incident mirrored a number which had taken place previously.

“Israeli forces have a long history of carrying out unlawful killings – including extrajudicial executions – in the occupied Palestinian territories with impunity,” Philip Luther, director of the organisation’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said at the time.

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