Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who killed an unarmed and wounded Palestinian, will be released from prison in May, after serving only two thirds of his 18-month sentence. He is being released reportedly due to his “good behaviour” in prison.
Chief Prosecutor Sharon Zagagi Pinhas informed the parole board that he does not constitute a threat to the public. However, Pinhas added that Azaria has shown no remorse for his murder of Palestinian Abdel Al-Fattah Al-Sharif, nor has he taken responsibility for his action, which she stressed was premeditated.
Azaria, formerly an army medic, shot 21-year-old Al-Sharif in the head on 24 March 2016, with a number of witnesses quoting him as saying, “This dog is still alive” and “This terrorist deserves to die” before he pulled the trigger. A video of the shooting prompted widespread international condemnation, with Al-Sharif shown lying injured and incapacitated on the ground prior to being killed.
Last August, Azaria was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison, with the court showing leniency due to the alleged stress of the situation. Less than a month after his conviction, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot cut the sentence to 14 months.
Despite the nature of the crime and his sentence being cut on two separate occasions, Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, called for his immediate release. Their calls were rejected by President Reuven Rivlin, prompting outrage from the Israeli public, with many on social media distributing images of Rivlin in a traditional Palestinian keffiyah and dubbing him “a president of Arabs and leftists”.
Azaria was also let out of prison for a four-day furlough last September for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Israeli soldiers are usually only granted furloughs from prison after serving a third of their sentence; Azaria had only begun serving his 18-month sentence one month previously.
The convicted soldier was awarded compensation in October amounting to some $6,900 from the Head of the Manpower Directorate of the Israel Defence Forces; that was half the amount that is normally paid to soldiers who complete their military service. Azaria only served 18 months of his three year term in the army.
During and after his trial, Azaria has received widespread support from the Israeli public and was labelled a national hero as “Israel’s son”.