Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron in 2016, said he has no remorse and would do it again.
Speaking to Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom on Wednesday, the former army medic said "I have no doubt. Bring me back to those same seconds of the incident in Hebron – I would have done exactly the same thing. Because that is what needed to be done."
Azaria, who finished his nine-month incarceration in May, added that "I have no remorse. I am completely at peace with myself. I acted as needed. I went with my own [inner] truth. I acted in the most proper way possible and what happened afterwards [his trial and conviction] should not have happened."
Azaria had served as a medic with the Kfir Brigade's Shimshon Battalion and was alerted to the Hebron site after a fellow soldier in his brigade was stabbed by two Palestinians. One was shot and killed. Azaria was convicted of shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif on March 24, 2016 while the latter was prostrate on the ground. Sharif had stabbed a soldier and was shot six times and subdued before Azaria killed him. Eleven minutes had passed between the time the soldiers subdued Sharif and the moment Azaria shot him to death.
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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"Everything led to a moment's instinct, everything came together and I acted exactly as I had been taught from the beginning of my training as a fighter," Azaria told Israel Hayom. "I fired one shot. The terrorist's head was the only exposed limb [sic] and I learned in medic training that when the head is injured, it affects the whole body."
Azaria added that "nothing would have happened" – he wouldn't have wound up in jail - if "everything had been done honestly. If they hadn't done a miscarriage of justice and all sorts of senior officers hadn't opened their mouths and talked nonsense."
He said that he had been "questioned at 6 P.M., or maybe 6.30 P.M., but two hours before that both the then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and the chief of staff condemned the incident," Azaria claimed. "Where is the logic, if I was only questioned after two hours? Let the people decide who's lying. The IDF spokesman made a statement before my investigation, saying that the chief of staff views the incident gravely."
He added that despite being convicted of manslaughter, he will be serving in the reserves forces and added, "I will always love the state and the IDF."
Azaria began his sentence for manslaughter on August 2017. Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reduced Azaria's sentence in September by four months and the military parole board later cut his sentence by a third for "good behavior." President Reuven Rivlin was labeled a "traitor" in right-wing circles after he refused to pardon Azaria. The case was highly divisive in Israel.