Israel reduces sentence of soldier who shot dead wounded Palestinian
The move cut Elor Azaria's sentence from 18 to 14 months after the soldier pleaded for leniency, said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus
Israel's military chief of staff on Wednesday reduced the sentence of a soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian as he lay on the ground by four months, the army said.
The move cut Elor Azaria's sentence from 18 to 14 months after the soldier pleaded for leniency, said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.
Azaria was convicted in a military trial that deeply divided the country and began his sentence in August.
Military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot had repeatedly denounced Azaria's actions, putting him at odds with right-wing politicians including prime minister Benjamin 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", Mr Conricus said of the reduction.
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 Abdul Fatah Al Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground after being shot along with another Palestinian for allegedly stabbing and wounding an Israeli soldier.
Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria shot Al Sharif in the head without any apparent provocation.
Azaria said he feared Al Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.
"His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die," judge Colonel Maya Heller said as she read the verdict in January.
On July 30, a military court rejected Azaria's appeal against his conviction for manslaughter and upheld the prison sentence.
The French-Israeli could have appealed to the country's supreme court, but opted not to after defence minister Avigdor Lieberman pleaded for him to allow the country to move on.
He instead requested a reduced sentence from Mr Eisenkot, asking for community service instead of prison time.
Read more on the Elor Azaria case:
Azaria can also request a pardon from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, with right-wing leaders including Mr Netanyahu calling for it to be granted.
Human rights groups have pointed to the case as an example of what they call an unequal system of justice for Israelis and Palestinians.
Amnesty International has said Azaria's sentence does "not reflect the gravity of the offence", while the UN human rights office said it was an "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".
Azaria completed his mandatory three-year military service on July 20.
News of the reduction to Azaria's sentence came as the Israeli military mapped out the West Bank home of a Palestinian who shot dead three Israelis ahead of its planned demolition.
The military also set up checkpoints around the villages of Beit Surik and Bidu on Wednesday, which neighbour the Jewish settlement where Tuesday's shootings took place.
Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal, 37, also critically wounded a fourth Israeli outside the Har Adar settlement before being shot dead himself.
The Israeli army said engineers had mapped out Jamal's home in Beit Surik, west of Jerusalem.
Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinian attackers as a deterrent measure, but rights groups say the policy amounts to collective punishment.
Israel also canceled the entry permits of several of Jamal's relatives.
Updated: September 27, 2017 05:59 PM