Hebron Security Officer at Azaria Trial: As Long as Terrorist Is Alive He's Still Dangerous

The trial of Elor Azaria, the soldier accused of killing a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron, shifts into high gear with four hearings scheduled this week and another seven for next month.

Soldier Elor Azaria attends his trial at the Jaffa Military Court, Israel, August 28, 2016.
Nir Keidar

The security officer for the Jewish community in Hebron testified on Sunday in the trial of Elor Azaria, charged with the killing of a prone Palestinian assailant in Hebron, and said that shooting a wounded assailant in the head was a justified way to eliminate the threat.

"There are those who think that if you shoot a terrorist and he falls to the ground, then he is neutralized," Eliyahu Liebman said, adding that to "neutralize" an assailant one must either shoot him in the head, or have him restrained by both the hands and feet and examined by a bomb specialist.

"In every terrorist attack, the fighters shot the terrorist until he was eliminated. None of them was put to trial," he said. "He was shot in the center of the mass to make sure the terrorist won't carry out another attack." 

The trial of Azaria, the soldier accused of killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, resumed at a military court in Jaffa on Sunday. The trial shifts into high gear with four hearings scheduled this week and another seven for next month.

Liebman also supported Azaria's claim that he shot al-Sharif because he believed he may have been carrying a concealed bomb.

“The terrorist with the black jacket was unusual for a hot day,” testified Liebman, the security officer, referring to Sharif. He said Sharif’s jacket looked inflated, “in a way that anyone who has a little experience with the security reality has a grave fear that the jacket was not filled with an air pocket but rather an explosive or bombs.”

He added: “During the incident there was a lot of noise and shouting, including ‘be careful of the knife,’ ‘be careful for a bomb.’ As far as I’m concerned, as long as the terrorist is still alive, he is dangerous enough to get up and arm himself with a knife and resume stabbing soldiers or civilians in the area.”

The hearings are due to continue with the testimony on Azaria’s behalf of three former senior military officers: Gen. (Res.) Uzi Dayan, who served as deputy chief of staff; Gen. (Res.) Dan Biton, who was head of the technology and logistics branch and Gen. Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the Gaza brigade. 

One of the claims of Azaria’s legal team is that the military prosecution is selectively enforcing the law when it comes to his case. But, according to research by Haaretz, at least four other cases over the years in which the IDF has been fighting Palestinian terror, including during the second intifada, show a different picture. Soldiers have been indicted and tried for manslaughter since 2000, but in most cases the soldiers were not convicted, and were given a plea bargain instead.