Elor Azaria’s cool-headedness as he shot a motionless Palestinian attacker on March 24 proves that the Hebron shooter had no murderous intent, Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zachai told the Jaffa Military Court on Tuesday.
Zachai’s testimony completed a line of three top retired IDF generals who last week and Tuesday testified that Azaria’s shooting of Abdel Fatah al-Sharif was justified in his manslaughter trial.
The exchange was important because it came when the three judge panel themselves asked for Zachai’s assessment of Azaria’s state of mind after asking him to watch the full video of the incident an additional time.
During the IDF prosecution’s side of the case, lead prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman said that the video and testimonies he brought proved that the “cool-headedness” was actually a sign of a cold and calculated killing.
Weissman also said that Azaria’s apparent cool visible from the video during the minutes just before he shoots Sharif show that he was did not feel in any immediate danger or pressure from danger.
In contrast, Zachai was arguing that the cool-headedness was a sign that Azaria was focused in military-mode on removing a real perceived threat.
The brigadier general said that he had seen many people kill others (he said he was not referring to IDF soldiers but presumably enemy combatants) without any danger and out of illegal purposes, but that when that occurred the killers shot multiple times and showed signs of being distraught.
His point was that Azaria’s single shot to the head without looking like he was taking revenge or distraught showed that it was a focused legal action to remove a danger.
Earlier, Weissman had questioned Zachai’s qualifications and his written expert report he submitted in the trial.
The IDF prosecutor alleged that Zachai’s report had been written almost entirely by Azaria’s lawyers and, therefore, should not carry serious weight.
His proof was that at least eleven paragraphs in both Zachai’s and Maj. Gen. (res.) Dan Biton’s reports, also submitted in support of Azaria, were identical and that both said the original draft of their report was written by the lawyers (though they each said they edited afterwards.) Weissman also alleged that Zachai’s experience was outdated for the rules of engagement in 2016 since he finished his IDF service in 2004 and has not performed reserve duty.
Zachai countered that his jobs have had him involved in public safety at the highest levels with the highest security clearances, giving him continued and updated information on security issues.
Last, Weissman said Zachai’s report was missing key pieces because Zachai reviewed only some, but not all of the current written IDF rules of engagement and because he was not familiar with key witnesses’ testimony in the case which showed that Azaria had shot Sharif in revenge for stabbing his soldier-friend, O.
After Zachai, Psychiatrist Mark Weiser came and testified that Azaria was not in a state of post-trauma at the time he shot Sharif such that would have made him unable to understand ethical problems with his actions.
Weiser was brought as a witness to rebut the defense’s argument that Azaria was in a state of shock from the pressure of the incident and a lack of sleep when he shot Sharif. Thursday is expected to be the last day of witnesses with the prosecution’s pathologist Dr. Hadas Gips returning to testify a second time in order to reject the opinions of the pathologists for the defense which said that Sharif would have died of his earlier wounds regardless of whether Azaria shot him.
The other expected witness is a local Hebron civilian who was the first to report Azaria’s shooting of Sharif to the IDF.