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Israeli soldier appeals jail sentence for killing helpless Palestinian



An Israeli soldier, sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank last year, has filed an appeal against his manslaughter conviction and already-lenient jail term. 

On Wednesday, defense attorney Yoram Sheftel representing Sergeant Elor Azaria lodged the appeal to the military court.

In the petition to the court, the lawyer asked that the date his client is due to arrive to serve his time, slated for March 5, be deferred until the end of legal proceedings.

Earlier in the day, three other lawyers that represented Azaria from the initial stages of his arrest – Ilan Katz, Eyal Besserglick, and Carmit Shchiver – announced that they were resigning from the case.

The trio announced in a statement that they believed avenues other than an appeal would be preferable.

Azaria was sentenced by a military court on February 21 to 18 months in prison plus a 12-month probation on top of his jail term. He was demoted to the rank of private as well.

Murder charges were brought against Azaria after video footage, recorded by a Palestinian rights activist, emerged showing him killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil on March 24, 2016.

The 21-year-old Palestinian lay on the ground unable to move after Israeli military forces had initially shot and wounded him over an alleged stabbing attack.

Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif lies on the ground following a fatal shooting in the occupied southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on March 24, 2016. (Photo by Ma’an news agency)

Azaria arrived at the scene approximately 11 minutes after the purported assault, cocked his rifle and shot Sharif in the head, killing him.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, Palestinian resistance movements, the victim’s family and the United Nations human rights office have strongly criticized the sentence given to Azaria as “too lenient.”

Rights activists in Israel have also argued that the man should have been prosecuted for murder and face time of up to 20 years in prison.

This is while a number of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for him to be pardoned.

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