Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Israeli soldier Elor Azara was convicted of manslaughter after he killed a wounded, defenseless man by shooting him in the head at pointblank range. The incident, which was caught on film, caused an international uproar, but Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken the side of the nation's right-wing factions who are treating Azara as a hero and demanding his immediate pardon. (Photo: Pool/Reuters)

Netanyahu Wants Pardon for IDF Soldier Who Shot Defenseless, Wounded Palestinian in the Head

'Time and again we have witnessed cases where Israeli forces appear to have carried out unlawful killings, displaying an appalling disregard for human life,' says rights campaigner

Andrea Germanos

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for the pardon of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier who had just been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian man last year in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

"Sgt Elor Azaria, 20, shot Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, in the head while he was lying immobile on a road," as BBC News writes. Al-Sharif was allegedly involved in a knife attack against another Israeli soldier and had already been shot, though he remained alive.

Video of Azaria's deadly shooting, condemned by a United Nations expert as an "extrajudicial execution," was posted online by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. In it, as Common Dreams reported at the time,

al-Sharif is seen wounded and unconscious in the middle of the street in the city of Hebron. While al-Sharif lies nearly motionless—though clearly still alive—numerous soldiers, police officers and medical personnel make no effort to administer aid, and largely ignore he's there at all. After approximately two minutes, a soldier is seen stepping forward, aiming his weapon at and shooting al-Sharif in the head from close range, killing him. "Although this occurs in the plain view of other soldiers and officers," B'Tselem noted, "they do not seem to take any notice."

Prosecutors had argued that al-Sharif "represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present."

Judge Maya Heller said she and the other two judges on the panel say "no room to accept [Azaria's] arguments," adding, "His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die."

"The verdict is a small step in the right direction and offers a glimmer of hope that soldiers who commit unlawful killings may no longer go unpunished," said Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

For al-Sharif's father, Yousri al-Sharif, it "is an achievement of the court that it condemned the soldier."

Netanyahu, however, said the conviction marked "a difficult and painful day for all of us." He added, "The soldiers of the IDF are our sons and daughters, and they need to remain above dispute.”

Azaria's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 15. He could face up to 20 years.

Israel President Reuven Rivlin may consider a pardon request if one is made, the Associated Press notes, but even if Azaria carries out his sentence, Amnesty's Luther said, "Sadly, this case is just the tip of the iceberg."

"Time and again we have witnessed cases where Israeli forces appear to have carried out unlawful killings, displaying an appalling disregard for human life. The authorities' repeated failure to hold anyone accountable for flagrant violations has fostered a culture in which unlawful killings have become acceptable," he added.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Policy of Death': Amazon Guardians Sue Ecuador's President Over Oil, Mining Decrees

"We are fighting to defend our territory, our rivers, our forest, our fish, and our animals," one Indigenous leader explained. "Without our forest and without water, we cannot live."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Just Cancel the Debt,' Advocates Say as Biden Admin Develops Strategy for Restarting Student Loan Payments

Student debt cancellation "is good economic policy that will change the lives of millions of families," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

Julia Conley ·


Green Public Spending a 'Win-Win Opportunity' for Climate and Workers, Global Study Shows

"It's really a no-brainer for the federal government to prioritize green investments to put our economy back on track," said one advocate. "It's good politics and good policy."

Kenny Stancil ·


After CIA Plot Revealed, Press Freedom Coalition Says DOJ Must Drop Assange Case

"A precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press," said the groups.

Julia Conley ·


'Needlessly Provocative': Austin Rebuked for Again Opening NATO Door to Ukraine and Georgia

"The Biden administration now faces a stark choice: commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo