Elor Azaria, an Israel Defense Forces soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron last year, has asked the head of the Israeli army to shorten his sentence.
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Sources who spoke with Haaretz at the beginning of the week said Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot might be open to such a deal should Azaria voice regret for his deeds.
According to a former Israeli lawmaker who has advised Sgt. Azaria and his family during the trial, the soldier has decided not to seek an appeal to his sentence from Israel's Supreme Court. Azaria was sentenced to 18 months by an Israeli army military court and, on Sunday, had his appeal thrown out by another military tribunal.
According the Sharon Gal, the former lawmaker, Azaria decided not to pursue an additional appeal through civilian courts after a period of consideration and talks with his family.
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On Sunday, the Military Court of Appeals rejected Azaria’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for killing a Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, while the latter was already lying on the ground gravely wounded in Hebron last year.
Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, lashed out at the army chief a day later, continuing what some have called divisive and inflammatory rhetoric used by his legal team against the army's top brass.
Sources who spoke to Haaretz said that if Azaria expresses regret for the shooting that led to his manslaughter conviction, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot will seriously consider reducing his 18-month sentence.
Monday morning, however, Sheftel launched an ad hominem attack on Eisenkot in an interview with Channel 10 television. “The chief of staff is fat and doesn’t project a soldierly image in his appearances,” the attorney said.
An army source said afterward, “The IDF won’t hold any negotiations with Sheftel. The Azaria family has to decide: Either it files a request for permission to appeal, or Elor enters jail. After Elor starts serving his sentence in a military prison, he’s entitled to send a request for clemency to the chief of staff, and the chief of staff will be the one to decide. All the political pressure they’re trying to apply now is superfluous. There will be no deal in advance.”
The source appeared to be responding to an interview by Azaria’s father, Charlie, with Army Radio on Monday morning, in which he said the family hasn’t ruled out trying to appeal to the Supreme Court, but would also be interested in making a deal with the army.
“We aren’t ruling anything out,” Charlie Azaria said. “If we get a concrete offer for a significant reduction in the sentence, I believe that, together with the defense team, we’ll reach the right decision.”