Trial opens for Israeli soldier who shot wounded Palestinian
An Israeli soldier went on trial in a military court on Monday after he was caught on video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian lying on his back two months ago in the occupied West Bank.
Nineteen-year-old Elor Azaria also faces charges of conduct unbecoming before the military court in Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv.
The graphic video of the shooting, which was released online by rights group B'Tsleem, shows Azaria shooting a wounded and immobilised 21-year-old Palestinian suspect in the head following a knife attack on March 24 in the city of Hebron.
Azaria, who was not at the scene during the alleged attack by two Palestinian men, carried out the shooting without any apparent provocation.
Both Palestinians were initially reported to be shot and killed, but the release of the video showed that one of them, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was wounded but still alive after the initial shooting.
Azaria's lawyers claim that Sharif was wearing explosives and right-wing Israeli politicians argue he has been unfairly treated.
"Morally speaking, a terrorist who tried to murder Jews deserves to die," said Bezalel Smotrich, an MP from the far-right Jewish Home party.
|Warning: Graphic video of the shooting|
Azaria's defence team said that he acted as expected from a combat soldier and that the defence will seek a full acquittal.
"The truth will come out. The path will be long. We will endure," said Binyamin Malka, Azaria's defence lawyer.
Thousands of Israelis attended a controversial rally in support of him last month.
Israel has been accused of using excessive force against alleged Palestinian attackers, who have already been halted or wounded, and in some cases, of killing innocent civilians.
Activists have released a handful of amateur videos supporting these claims, but the Hebron shooting is perhaps the strongest evidence of Israeli wrongdoing so far.
Jewish settlers' continued illegal activity
Also Monday, a Jewish settler group said it took over a multi-story building in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.
It came as the latest move by Israelis to acquire properties in Palestinian areas in Jerusalem to ensure the city remains in Israeli hands under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
In 1972, there were just over 10,000 Israeli settlers, with 1,500 living in the West Bank and the rest in east Jerusalem.
Two decades later, by the time of the Oslo peace accords, there were 231,200 Israelis living in the Palestinian territories.
That number rose to 365,000 settlements by 2000 and to 474,000 by the time Binyamin Netanyahu became Israel's prime minister again in 2008.
The settlements are now home to more than 570,000 Israelis, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now – 370,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 in east Jerusalem.
Agencies contributed to this report