Netanyahu, Two Ministers Call for Pardon of Hebron Shooter After Appeal Loss

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Elor Azaria escorted by his mother arrives to Israeli military court in Tel Aviv, July 30, 2017.
Elor Azaria escorted by his mother arrives to Israeli military court in Tel Aviv, July 30, 2017.Credit: Dan Balilty/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two other cabinet ministers called on Sunday for Sgt. Elor Azaria to be pardoned, after a military court denied the appeal of his manslaughter conviction for killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker last year in Hebron. 

Azaria shot and killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif on March 24, 2016 after the latter had stabbed an Israeli soldier. The soldier was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison. The military appellate court upheld Azaria's conviction on Sunday and denied a prosecution appeal seeking a harsher sentence. 

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"My opinion hasn't changed about pardoning Elor Azaria," the prime minister said. "When the issue is brought up for consideration, I will submit my recommendation for a pardon to the relevant officials."

Earlier, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett asked the public and the Azaria family to respect the appellate court's ruling. They also called on Azaria to submit a request for a pardon.

“I ask the Azaria family not to file another appeal and to turn to the [IDF] chief of staff with a request for a pardon," Lieberman tweeted. "I have no doubt the chief of staff will take all the difficult circumstances and his being an outstanding soldier into consideration.”

Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, said: "Now, after a year and a half of suffering, the time has come to pardon Elor Azaria. On behalf of our soldiers who are on the front line, and in order to prevent the loss of our power of deterrence, Elor Azaria must return home."

In a statement, Bennett asked the public to refrain from attacking the army and its commanders. “I have full faith in Chief of Staff [Gadi] Eisenkot and IDF commanders."

Military sources say that if Azaria expresses remorse, army chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot will consider reducing his sentence, but add that they will not negotiate a deal.

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