London [UK], Jan. 5 : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has joined calls for pardoning the Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter.
"This is a difficult and painful day for all of us - and first and foremost for Elor and his family, for IDF soldiers, for many soldiers and for the parents of our soldiers, and me among them," the Guardian quoted Netanyahu as saying.
"We have one army, which is the basis of our existence. The soldiers of the IDF are our sons and daughters, and they need to remain above dispute," he added. Charges were brought against Sgt. Elor Azaria for killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian, by shooting him in the head as he lay on the ground, shortly after Sharif and another Palestinian had stabbed and wounded a soldier at an Israeli military checkpoint.
Reading from the verdict, Chief Judge Col Maya Heller said Azaria shot Sharif out of revenge. The court ruled that accounts of the incident that he had given were "unreliable and problematic" and his defence contradictory and flawed.
"We found there was no room to accept his arguments. His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die," she said. The other Palestinian involved in the knife attack was shot and died immediately, but Sharif was still alive, badly injured and posing no threat when Azaria shot him, the judges ruled.
Azaria is expected to be sentenced in about a month. As soon as the verdict was handed down, there were calls from Israeli Ministers demanding that Azaria, an army medic who was 19 at the time of the shooting, be granted an immediate pardon by the President Reuven Rivlin, as others accused the Israeli military of abandoning the soldier.