Israeli Soldier Indicted for Shooting Wounded Palestinian Assailant Released for Passover

Sgt. Elor Azaria is granted a 48-hour furlough to spend the holiday at home; IDF chief responds to criticism over the army's handling of the case, saying the military's duty is to take the moral stance, even if it isn't popular.

Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter after shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head, is greeted by friends and relatives as he arrives home in Ramle, on April 22, 2016.

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.

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. 

Elor Azria, an Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter after shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant, is greeted by his mother and sister as he arrives home in Ramle on April 22, 2016

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."