Trial of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, July 6, 2016.
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
The highest ranking IDF commander in the ongoing trial of Elor Azaria, who is accused of manslaughter in the March 24 shooting of an immobile Palestinian terrorist, testified in court on Wednesday.
IDF Col. Yariv Ben Ezra told the Jaffa Military Court that there was no operational justification for the shooting, because there was no danger to life after Palestinian Abdel Fatah al-Sharif was "neutralized."
The military command charged that he had never seen a soldier "depart so extremely from the [IDF's] rules of engagement" as he did in the Hebron shooting.
Video footage of the incident shows Azaria shoot dead al-Sharif after he stabbed a soldier at a checkpoint near Hebron.
Azaria’s attorneys have claimed that the soldier shot the immobilized Palestinian terrorist because he thought he still posed a risk either by reaching for a knife or because he suspected al-Sharif was wearing an explosive vest under his jacket.
In his testimony on Wednesday, Ezra rejected Azaria's claims that he operated in self defense due to fear that the downed Palestinian stabber had an explosive on his person, saying "once you see the video, it's clear these claims are disconnected from reality."
Ezra stated that he had not perceived al-Sharif's jacket to be exceptionally suspicious to the extent of rousing concern over a concealed explosive. He added that it is not rare for people to wear such articles of clothing at that time of year due to the weather in Hebron, or even in the current summer season.
Ezra asserted that mention of an explosive had not been stated at the scene, rather afterward in the media.
On Tuesday, the IDF prosecution claimed that Azaria conspired with right-wing activist Ofer Ohana to cover up the fact that Azaria shot al-Sharif out of revenge and not in self-defense.
The accusation was made while lead prosecutor Lt.-Col. Nadav Weissman questioned Ohana about his involvement in the March 24 incident in which al-Sharif was killed after stabbing a soldier, despite the fact that the terrorist was already “neutralized.”
Ohana, an ambulance driver who arrived at the scene of the incident, also took one of the videos in which some bystanders are seen calling out that al-Sharif may have an explosive vest.
IDF investigators previously showed video footage proving that Ohana moved a knife closer to the supine Palestinian terrorist, and argued that he did this to make it look like Azaria had killed him in self-defense.
Under questioning and with the limited immunity, Ohana eventually confessed to moving the knife, which is considered tampering with a crime scene, to ensure that later “Palestinians could not claim a knife wasn’t there.”