IDF Soldier Suspected of Hebron Manslaughter: My Commander Lied Under Oath

Sgt. Elor Azaria averted his eyes from Prosecutor Lt. Col. (Res.) Nadav Weisman, as his second day of live testimony began. Azaria testified in court for the first time on Sunday, answering questions from his own attorneys.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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IDF soldier Elor Azaria at Jaffa Military Court on Sunday, July 24, 2016.
IDF soldier Elor Azaria at Jaffa Military Court on Sunday, July 24, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israeli soldier on trial for manslaughter for killing a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron faced cross-examination by military prosecutors on Monday.

Sgt. Elor Azaria averted his eyes from Prosecutor Lt. Col. (Res.) Nadav Weisman, as his second day of live testimony began about the March shooting. The session went on for hours.

Weisman asked whether the soldier thought his company commander had lied during testimony.

Azaria replied: "Absolutely."

The soldier also alleged that a large part of his brigade commander's testimony "does not reflect the truth."

"Did Lt. Col. David Shapira, your brigade commander lie?" the prosecutor pressed.

"In part of what he said, yes," Azaria said.

"There are things he forgot to say, I cannot call him a liar," the soldier added.

The prosecutor pressed Azaria about why he hadn't complained about being slapped by a commander after the fatal shooting.

The soldier snapped back: "I told you I was in shock from the incident. I had shot someone for the first time, a terrorist, but a human being. It's the first time I had a real incident, and so that (the slap) wasn't the first thing I was thinking about."

Azaria also alleged that the B'tselem videotape that captured the shooting and led to his prosecution, "was a violation of human rights, it shows only what he (the photographer) wanted to show."

Azaria said later under questioning that his understanding of the IDF rules of engagement were that it was okay to shoot if you suspected a terrorist was armed, without necessarily spottting any weapon on that suspect.

"If there's a reasonable suspicion that the terrorist has a weapon, and you don't see it but you have a suspicion, then that's enough to neutralize him. Why? Because they say that if there's a doubt then there is no doubt," Azaria said.

"It doesn’t seem logical to me that if you have a doubt you wouldn't shoot, because the danger could wind up getting people hurt. You feel the danger so you cannot do anything besides take action, otherwise everyone will say later why didn’t you think, why didn't you take action?" Azaria said.

Azaria testified in court for the first time on Sunday, answering questions from his own attorneys.

The soldier alleged on Sunday that IDF top brass of "threw me to the dogs" and defended his decision to kill Palestinian man Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, as was lying on the ground, wounded, for fear he may have had a concealed explosive.

Azaria further accused commanders at the scene of being too complacent after receiving an alert of a possible attack planned at the site in the March incident, and insisted he had "saved lives."

The prosecution says that al-Sharif, who had been shot and wounded after stabbing and wounding another soldier, posed no risk to Azaria or any of the bystanders at the scene.

Azaria's live testimony is seen as key to determining his state of mind when he shot al-Sharif. The soldier is the first witness to testify in the case. Military prosecutors say they have enough evidence to convict him.

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