Israel cuts Elor Azaria’s sentence by four months, a decision condemned by Palestinians as a ‘license to kill without accountability’

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 28 September 2017| 07 Muharram 1439

Israel’s military chief of staff has reduced the sentence of a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a severely wounded Palestinian, a decision denounced by Palestinian leaders as a “license to kill without any accountability”.

The move to cut Elor Azaria’s sentence from 18 to 14 months was announced on Wednesday, about 18 months after he shot a bullet from close range into the head of 21-year-old Abdel al-Fattah al-Sharif.

“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”, Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said.

But human rights groups and Palestinian leaders, who had already slammed the 18-month sentence as “extremely lenient”, said Wednesday’s decision was further proof that for Israelis, “Palestinian lives mean nothing to them”.

“We are in a system of apartheid. The reduction of the sentence is an encouragement for Israeli soldiers to commit violations” against Palestinians, Mustafa Barghouti, senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) central council, told Al Jazeera.

“In comparison, Palestinians are subjected to collective punishment whenever one of them is accused of committing a crime,” he said.

He cited the demolitions of homes of families of Palestinians accused of crimes, which has now affected 40,000 people, adding that families are being deprived of services, including healthcare.

“It’s a green light, a license to kill for Israeli soldiers without any accountability,” he said. “It is most important that we expose this military practice, and it should be punished.”

The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.

It showed Sharif lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian Aziz al-Qasrawi, after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria, a sergeant and military medic at the time of the incident, shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.

Source – Al Jazeera