KFIR BRIGADE fighters carry the body of one of two terrorists killed after they attacked a soldier in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron on March 24..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Abdel Fatah al-Sharif did not die from Sgt. Elor Azaria’s shot to his head, but rather from his earlier wounds, senior forensic pathologist Dr. Yehuda Hiss testified on Thursday for the defense in Azaria’s manslaughter trial in Jaffa Military Court.
Azaria shot Sharif on March 24, after the Palestinian had already been shot and seriously wounded by the two soldiers he had attacked.
The dispute is over whether these wounds led to his death or made his death inevitable, or whether Sharif would have survived had Azaria not shot him in the head. Azaria can be convicted only if the court rules that his shot to the head was what killed Sharif.
On June 16, forensic pathologist Dr. Hadas Gips testified for the IDF prosecution that Sharif’s initial wounds “were not immediately life threatening, especially with medical care,” and that he might even have survived without immediate medical care.
“If the terrorist had been given medical treatment, he could have possibly been saved,” the medical examiner told the court.
On cross-examination, Azaria’s lawyers questioned Gips’ examination of Sharif’s corpse, scrutinizing the length of time it had been in and out of refrigeration before the medical examiner was allowed to inspect it.
There was a 10-day delay before Gips was allowed to examine the body, because of a legal dispute with Sharif’s family. The issue was resolved only after a petition to the High Court of Justice led to a compromise whereby a Palestinian expert was allowed to participate in the autopsy.
Hiss criticized Gips’ analysis as being contradicted by medical journals on what was likely to happen with Sharif’s injuries from his earlier wounds. He said that scans of Sharif’s wounds showed that, due to his original injuries, air that was traveling from the lungs to the heart could have caused immediate death or was about to cause his death.
He accused Gips of not performing all necessary aspects of an autopsy, listing other actions he would have taken had he performed the autopsy.
In contrast, Gips had said that such a theory for leading to Sharif’s death was unlikely and unreasonable, and that there were clear signs in Sharif’s body that he was alive up until the point that Azaria essentially blew his brains out.
The IDF prosecution also tried to attack Hiss’s credibility in various ways. Hiss is simultaneously widely respected for his knowledge, having run the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine for years, but has also been panned for his admitted involvement in widespread organ harvesting.
Earlier Thursday, the deputy director of Magen David Adom Operations, Ronen Bashari, testified on Azaria’s behalf that the area where Sharif attacked IDF soldiers and was then shot by Azaria was an extremely dangerous area.
He also reported that MDA has changed its regulations since the incident and will now evacuate Palestinian bodies from a terrorist crime scene under IDF order, even before a police bomb squad expert checks the bodies. During the actual incident, there was a dispute between the IDF on one side and the police and MDA on the other side, about whether Sharif should be evacuated before a bomb expert checked him (the IDF won in the end).
Later Thursday, Dr. Yisachar Herman testified for the defense that Azaria had not slept enough and slept in poor conditions leading up to the incident, which could partially explain his actions and his disorientation after shooting Azaria.
The defense has asked the court to ignore Azaria’s initial statements about the incident, which hurt his case, claiming he was in shock.
However, the IDF prosecution showed that the specific night before the incident, Azaria had slept a full eight hours.