The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter after he shot a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground in Hebron on March 24, kisses his head in a military court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Those who warned about a bomb at the scene of the Hebron shooter incident felt seriously in danger, a Hebron local security official, Eshi Hurvitz, told the Jaffa Military Court on Tuesday in support of Elor Azaria’s claim of self-defense.
Azaria is accused of manslaughter after he shot Palestinian terrorist Abdel Fatah al-Sharif while he lay on the ground after he and another Palestinian had earlier attacked and stabbed an IDF soldier.
Three of the four IDF commanders who were on the scene on March 24 in Hebron have testified that Azaria’s shooting of Sharif was unjustified, since the Palestinian was already “neutralized” and no longer a threat.
Azaria has claimed self-defense on the basis of alleged concerns that Sharif might grab for a knife or might have been concealing an explosive vest under what he called a heavy-looking and suspicious coat.
Hurvitz, one of the first people to arrive on the scene, supported Azaria’s defense as he recounted hearing warning calls to be careful about the possibility of an explosive vest.
Asked to address the argument of the IDF prosecution that the explosive vest scenario was “a fiction” created to try to save Azaria from a conviction, Hurvitz responded that those warning of a bomb would not have done so without feeling in genuine danger.
Hurvitz also slammed two of the IDF officers who are Azaria’s lead accusers for what he called acting politically and unprofessionally against Azaria and the residents of Hebron.
Lead IDF Prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman confronted Hurvitz with testimony and video footage showing that several soldiers and local Hebron residents were wearing large coats just like Sharif.
This could invalidate Hurvitz’s and Azaria’s claim that Sharif’s coat was suspicious. Hurvitz had no explanation for the inconsistency.
Weissman also showed footage of Hurvitz walking around the scene without appearing concerned.
Next, he got Hurvitz to admit that he had donated funds to a legal aid fund for Azaria.
Based on the above, Weissman told Hurvitz that he was the one who had a political agenda in this case to support Azaria’s story at all costs, even ignoring objective facts and his own inconsistencies.
Later on Tuesday, Magen David Adom paramedic Elad Pas testified about the danger he felt on the scene.
Weissman attacked him as biased toward Azaria, and as having been convicted in the past of causing public disturbances as a right-wing activist.
A soldier from Azaria’s unit also testified in support of his self-defense claim. The soldier, whose name is under gag order, has been court-martialed in the past by the IDF for posting an online attack on IDF Maj. Tom Naaman, one of Azaria’s main accusers.
At this stage of the trial, the defense is calling a line of witnesses who were on the scene to support Azaria’s side of the story, while the IDF prosecution tries to undermine each one with inconsistencies.
Azaria was a medic who arrived on the scene to attend to the wounded soldier around 10 minutes after the initial attack had ended.
His shooting of Sharif was caught on a video distributed by B’Tselem that went viral. It led to public condemnations by then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.
Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, and supportive statements by current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others.
Noam Amir of Maariv contributed to this story.