Israel reduces sentence of soldier who executed Palestinian
Israel's military chief of staff on Wednesday reduced the sentence of an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing an incapacitated Palestinian by four months.
In March 2016, footage emerged of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shooting Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in the head as he lay wounded on the ground following an alleged stabbing attack in Hebron.
There was no apparent provocation for the shooting, with al-Sharif incapacitated.
Azaria, 21, was convicted in a military trial that led to an extraordinary public rift between military chiefs and the country's top politicians.
The latest decision cut his sentence from 18 to 14 months after the soldier pleaded for leniency, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told AFP.
Israeli military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot had repeatedly denounced Azaria's actions, putting him at odds with right-wing politicians including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who called for the soldier to be released.
"Despite the fact that it is clear from the words of the chief of staff that Azaria's actions were contrary to the code of conduct and to the values of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) ... he decided to do so out of consideration of the fact that he is a combat soldier and a warrior" who had "endured a lot," Conricus said of the reduction.
In a letter to Azaria, Eisenkot wrote that "it must be said from the outset clearly and unequivocally that from the point of view of the chief of staff, your conduct was inappropriate and contrary to army orders and to the army's values."
"The chief of staff however believed that it was appropriate to consider grace and mercy considering your past as a combat soldier in the operational arena."
Palestinians and human rights groups say the shooting is further evidence of a shoot-to-kill policy in the occupied West Bank, with complete impunity for Israeli forces.
"It's not just about potentially rogue soldiers, but also about senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill," Human Rights Watch said earlier this year.
Amnesty International has said Azaria's sentence is "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".
Of the 186 criminal investigations opened by the Israeli army into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, just four yielded indictments, according to Israeli rights group Yesh Din.