(May 8, 2018 / JNS) Private Elor Azaria, who was found guilty of shooting already-neutralized terrorist Abdel Fattah al-Sharif at point-blank range in Hebron in 2016, was released from prison on Tuesday morning. He served nine months of his 14-month sentence.
Al-Sharif had been shot by members of Azaria’s command after attempting to stab two Israel Defense Forces soldiers and was lying wounded on the ground when Azaria shot him in the head. The prosecution argued that Azaria used unnecessary force against al-Sharif that ultimately caused his death, whereas the defense argued that al-Sharif was still moving and continued to pose a security threat.
The case raised a moral debate across the country regarding IDF rules of engagement. Opponents of Azaria’s actions argued that he broke the rules and took the law into his own hands, while supporters said that IDF soldiers deserve the benefit of the doubt when up against terrorists.
Azaria was originally scheduled to be released on Thursday, as per the decision of the army parole board. But the board approved a request for release on Tuesday so he could take part in his brother’s wedding on Wednesday.
Azaria had originally been sentenced to 18 months in prison, but his sentence was reduced by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
He arrived to his home city of Ramla to a huge celebratory welcome, with signs, decorations and custom-printed T-shirts.
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz called for Azaria’s criminal record to be erased, while Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a picture of Azaria at home with his family and wrote: “Elor, it’s so good to have you home.”