Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who shot defenceless Palestinian, denied pardon

Israeli President Rivlin denies pardon. The 18-month sentence is indulgent, any further lessening of the sentence would damage the armed forces and Israel. The case creates divisions in civil society. Azaria has never shown remorse.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has refused to pardon Elor Azaria, the young Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months in jail for killing Palestinian Abdul Fatah al-Sharif while he was lying prone on the ground.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are among the figures supporting his request for grace, formally submitted by Azaria last month. The presidential office yesterday issued a statement announcing that the president "has taken the decision to deny Elor Azaria's request for pardon".

The statement adds that Rivlin considered both the crime committed and the circumstances, also mentioning the "indulgent" court ruling. "A further lessening of the sentence would damage the armed forces and the state of Israel," the statement continues, recalling that the ex-soldier may request to be released "on parole" in about three months, according to the provisions of the Criminal Code.

On March 24, 2016, Azaria shot dead the 21-year-old Palestinian in cold blood during an attempted assault on Israeli soldiers in Hebron, West Bank. Sharif, along with another 21-year-old Palestinian, had stabbed and hurt an Israeli soldier. Israeli forces opened fire, killing the second Palestinian and wounding Sharif. Shortly thereafter, Azaria shot the wounded Palestinian at point blank range. The scene was filmed by a witness and circulated by Israeli B'Tslem.

The sentence came at the end of a trial that began last May, has been the cause of deep division in public opinion and civil society in Israel. The military prosecutor appealed in July for a tightening of the sentence, considered too mild. The request was rejected, while at the end of September, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reduced the sentence, which Azaria began on 9 August, by four months.

He has never expressed remorse for his actions.