The Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter for shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant to death in Hebron last month was released from open detention to spend the Passover holiday with his family on Friday.
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Sgt. Elor Azaria, an army medic who has been held at the Kfir Brigade base, was granted a 48-hour furlough. Upon arriving at home in Ramle, Azaria was greeted by family members and supporters, one of whom picked him up and carried him on his shoulders. A sign hung nearby said "Elor Azaria, we are all with you."
Azaria is to return to the base on Sunday.
Azaria was charged with manslaughter on Monday for the March 24 Hebron shooting. According to the indictment, he opened fire in "violation of the rules of engagement, and without operational justification, while [Palestinian assailant Abdel Fattah] al-Sharif lay wounded on the ground ... and did not pose immediate and real threat to the defendant, civilians or soldiers in the area."
Azaria was also charged with unbecoming conduct.
On Tuesday, nearly 2,000 people rallied in support of Azaria in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators shouted slogans including “He’s a hero” and “Release the soldier.”
IDF Chief of Staff Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot addressed the criticism leveled at the military over the case on Friday. Eisenkot said that it's the IDF's duty to take a moral stance even when it doesn't reflect popular opinion.
"I don't think that the IDF and I are under attack, but there has been criticism that I can't ignore," he told Army Radio. "I understand well that the public trust in the IDF is the primary component of the military's ability to fulfill its mission – protecting the state, ensuring its existence and winning wars.
"That said, the IDF isn't a democracy," he continued. "It is an army in a democratic state. It has rules and principles. It has norms."
He said it is the commanders' duty to set the moral standard, when "it isn't popular."