Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter over killing of wounded Palestinian man

Amnesty International have called the case “just the tip of the iceberg” adding that the verdict is a “small step in the right direction"

Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter over killing of wounded Palestinian man

File photo. Image: Oded Balilty / AP/Press Association Images

Updated 13:15

An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian man has been convicted of manslaughter.

Sergeant Elor Azaria, 20, shot Abdul Fattah al-Sharif in the head in the West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016.

At the time, al-Sharif was lying wounded on the ground after being shot by other soldiers while he carried out a stabbing attack.

Footage of the incident appeared to show the Palestinian motionless.

For a soldier to carry out the deliberate killing of someone who had been captured and posed no imminent threat to life would amount to an extrajudicial execution and is a crime under international law.

Claims from Azari’s lawyers that he shot al-Sharif because he believed the man was wearing an explosive vest were firmly rejected by the court.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller said Azaria had no reason to open fire and called his testimony "evolving and evasive".

She added: "The fact that the man on the ground was a terrorist does not justify a disproportionate response."

Azaria, who will be sentenced at a later date, faces up to 20 years in prison.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland said the verdict is a “small step in the right direction and offers a glimmer of hope that soldiers who commit unlawful killings may no longer go unpunished.”

“Sadly, this case is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mr O’Gorman. “Time and again we have witnessed cases where Israeli forces appear to have carried out unlawful killings, displaying an appalling disregard for human life.”

“Today’s conviction of a member of the Israeli forces is a rare occurrence in a country with a long record of using excessive and unwarranted force and where soldiers who may have committed crimes under international law very seldom face prosecution.”

Following the verdict, hundreds of demonstrators near the courtroom in Tel Aviv blocked a road and clashed with police.

Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said he agreed with the "difficult verdict".

He said: "We must keep the army outside every political argument...and keep it in the widest consensus in Israeli society."

According to Amnesty International a spike in violence in the West Bank since October 2015 has seen a rise in unlawful killings.

The human rights organisation said that over the past year at least 16 Israelis have been killed during attacks by Palestinians and at least 110 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

“To end this bitter cycle of unlawful killings it is crucial that those responsible for violations are held accountable for their actions,” said Mr O’Gorman.

In a memorandum sent to the Israeli authorities in September 2016 Amnesty International highlighted at least 20 cases of apparent unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

The organisation said that in at least 15 of these cases, those killed were deliberately shot dead - despite posing no imminent threat to life.

Supporters of Israeli soldier Sgt. Elor Azaria shot scuffles outside the Israeli military court in Tel Aviv, Israel. Picture by Ariel Schalit AP/Press Association Images