Elor Azaria Receives Hero's Welcome at Scene of Hebron Shooting

The soldier, who served a prison sentence after he shot and killed a wounded terrorist, returned to the city for the first time since his release from prison

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Azaria holding the Israeli flag in Hebron, on July 3, 2018
Azaria holding the Israeli flag in Hebron, on July 3, 2018
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier that shot and killed a wounded terrorist in Hebron and was released two months ago from prison, returned on Tuesday for the first time to the site where the shooting took place.

Azaria, who visited Hebron with his parents, was invited by the residents of the Jewish community in the city for a toast. A source in the settlement told Haaretz that it was not an official invitation from the settlers' committee, but rather a private invitation.

>> Elor Azaria, Israeli soldier convicted of killing a wounded Palestinian terrorist, set free after nine monthsThe bill to protect Elor Azaria | Editorial

Azaria was wrapped in the Israeli flag, and joined by many of the settlers in the area, among far-right activists. One of the settlers told Azaria: "There were dozens of stabbings before, and after the incident here, there were no stabbings here. Apparently, the terrorists understood that they were not coming out alive." In practice, almost every week Palestinians carrying knives in Hebron are detained by the security forces, especially around the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Azaria and his mother in Hebron, on July 3, 2018Credit: HAZEM BADER/אי־אף־פי

Ofer Ohana, a local resident, told Azaria: "The two terrorists who came here and tried to kill IDF soldiers are melting in their grave, and you are here. Build your life, the dogs bark, and the convoy of the Jewish people gallops forward." Azaria waved the Israeli flag and took part in the toast, and was greeted by cheering: "Elor Azaria, I wanted you to know how many people love you in Hebron."

On May 8, Azaria was released from military prison after nine months. The parole board shortened his sentence by a third and released him two days earlier because he wanted to attend his brother's wedding. Azaria was convicted of shooting Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif in March 2016 while al-Sharif was lying wounded on the ground. The military court sentenced Azaria to 18 months in prison, stating that Azaria did not shoot out of a sense of danger, but because he decided that "the terrorist deserved to die." The Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of his conviction and the severity of the sentence. The prosecution's appeal was also rejected.

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