Medical Witness in Hebron Shooting Trial: Shot Fired by Azaria Did Not Kill Palestinian

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Elor Azaria in court on September 5, 2016.
Elor Azaria in court on September 5, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

In the continuing trial of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter in the killing of a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron in March, a surgeon testifying for the defense Monday submitted an expert opinion Monday stating that the terrorist was not killed by the soldier.

Azaria is charged with shooting and killing the terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who in video footage of the incident is seen prior to the shooting lying wounded on the ground after stabbing a soldier. The prosecution claims Sharif posed no risk to Azaria or any of the bystanders at the scene when the soldier shot the terrorist. Azaria  claims that he shot Sharif because he believed that he was carrying concealed explosives. An autopsy of Sharif's body found that he died as a result of a shot in the head.

Although the surgeon, Prof. Dov Shimon, submitted his professional opinion that the shooting of Sharif by Azaria was not the cause of the terrorist's death, the soldier's lawyers did not permit journalists to receive a copy of the opinion. Shimon asked the court to bar release of his name and photo, but the court denied the request.

A substantial portion of the prosecution's cross-examination of Shimon was devoted to the fact that the surgeon's specialty is cardiology and that he is not an expert in forensic medicine. The prosecution also alleged Shimon was dismissed for his position at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem in the 1990s for allegedly submitting a false document. The prosecution hinted that this was the reason that the witness was seeking an order barring disclosure of his identity.

Shimon rejected the allegations, saying that the document in question, which he admitted was not authentic, was provided to him by the Health Ministry and that he had no hand in the forgery. He said he was persecuted at the time by his employers at the hospital.

In other testimony Monday, an officer in Azaria's company of the Kfir brigade identified publicly only as 1st Lt. Y. said prior to the March incident, Azaria had been highly regarded and was considered trustworthy, distinguishing himself "on both on the level of professionalism and discipline." In practice, the officer said, Azaria had the status of commander.

"For example, when we arrest Palestinians, usually there is a commander who guards them. In instances in which we’ve needed to, I used to assign it to Elor, turning a blind eye [to formalities] even when the situation was highly explosive, involving terrorists who threw stones and up to terrorists who carried out terrorist attacks with blood on their hands."

1st Lt. Y., who was not in Hebron at the time of the incident, said there had never been a sense that Azaria held extremist views.

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