The company commander of the soldier who shot dead a Palestinian assailant who was lying wounded on the ground in Hebron testified in court on Thursday regarding the chilling moments after the incident when he questioned the soldier about his behavior.
Sgt. Elor Azaria is on trial for manslaughter in military court for shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron on March 24 after Al-Sharif had stabbed an Israeli soldier
After the shooting, Maj. Tom Neeman, the company commander saw "Elor with his hands on the weapon, walking westward," he testified. "I approached him and asked, 'Why did you do it?' He answered me, 'This terrorist was alive, and he needs to die.'" Neeman added: "I was angry at him for doing this. Essentially a shoting had been conducted at the scene that I was in charge of, without my permission."
The company commander added that no one had paid attention to the second terrorist, whom Azaria shot, or claimed that the terrorist was booby-trapped.
The military prosecutor, Lt. Col. (Res.) Nadav Weisman, asked him if he had made an evaluation regarding a bomb or explosive belt, and Neeman answered negatively. "The treat that we know from situational assessments and memorandums from the Shin Bet is mainly shooting and stabbing," replied Neeman. "An explosive belt is not something we discuss. It belongs to another era."
The company commander added that he did not notice anything suspicious about the terrorist's clothing, and that he even wore relatively tight clothing, and there were no signs of wires. The commander was asked if there were an operational justification for Azaria to carry out the shooting, which he also answered in the negative.
Neeman said he noted that the "terrorist dressed in black was moving his head. I see the knife. It was relatively far away, not within his grasp." He described how he stood near the terrorist during the shooting. The prosecutor asked him if he felt in danger, and the commander relied that he did not hear Azaria shooting.
Neeman described the beginning of the incident, and said that the platoon commander had reported before Azaria's shooting that "they shot six bullets at the terrorist, that he is not moving and that he is probably dead." He added, "The initial feeling was that a soldier had not carried out the shooting but one of the civilians in the vicinity."
The company commander said under cross examination that the week before the event, Elor was reprimanded during a roll call check by the battalion commander for items missing in the medics' it. He said Elor's parents had contacted the commander and told him he was stressed to being doing the two jobs of medic and liaison for the company commander. The commander said he had told him that he didn’t want to do both and preferred to focus on being a medic.
Earlier during the trial on Thursday, a pathologist who examined his body testified that Al-Sharif would have survived had he not taken that bullet to the head.
“The other bruises and damage were not lethal, not immediately,” said the pathologist, Dr. Hadas Gips. “Had he received medical care immediately he would almost certainly have survived. Even without it – the deceased might have survived.”
Azaria has said he feared that al-Sharif may have been carrying an explosive device.
This week, a member of the B’Tselem rights group told Military Police investigators that another assailant in the incident was also shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. Azaria’s lawyers have asked the military advocate general to investigate.
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