Sgt. Elor Azaria, the 19-year-old medic who was filmed shooting a subdued Palestinian assailant as he lay defenseless on the ground following an attack in Hebron last month, was motivated by “a twisted ideology,” the army has concluded.
The IDF reached this assessment as part of a report that was first leaked to the online media outlet Vice News.
Azaria, an infantryman with the Kfir Brigade, has been court-martialed by a military tribunal in a case that has proven divisive in the eyes of the Israeli public.
According to Vice News
, the army found that the soldier had said the immobilized Palestinian assailant “needs to die” just before cocking his weapon and opening fire.
“He’s a terrorist, he needs to die,” Azaria is said to have told his commander shortly after the incident.
The army also determined that Azaria “changed his version [of events]” in subsequent interrogations, telling investigators that he shot the Palestinian “because I felt there was a threat to life.”
The army’s 17-page report also noted that the incident, which was filmed by a volunteer with the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, “severely hurts the IDF and Israel’s image.”
Azaria was granted temporary release from his on-base detention to visit his family for Passover.
Azaria is expected to return to his on-base detention on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Last week, the IDF prosecutor filed a manslaughter indictment with the Jaffa Military Court against Azaria. Azaria also was charged with conduct unbecoming of a noncommissioned officer. Once the indictment was issued, the gag order on his name was lifted.
Azaria, a Ramle resident who has been in the IDF for about a year-and-a-half, was ordered to remain in open detention on the IDF’s Nahshonim Base, near Rosh Ha’ayin, until the end of trial.
In the hearing last week, the prosecution pushed hard to keep Azaria in open detention on the army base until the end of the trial due to “the security situation, and to calm the security situation,” whereas the defense said Azaria has been mistreated by being put in detention for essentially doing his job and must be released. The prosecution lost an appeal to keep Azaria in full detention.
Judge Lt.-Col. Ronen Shor asked the defense how it could explain that Azaria genuinely thought he was in danger when none of his commanders did.
The defense responded that he was not as well-trained in all complex situations as they were and that this was a highly complicated situation.
The defense also requested that Azaria be given a brief vacation to spend the Passover Seder with his family in the event that the court continued his open detention, a request the court granted despite ruling against him on the general detention issue.
“The decision of the judge says to the prosecution: Stop here. Recheck ‘your evidence,’ and the phrase ‘your evidence,’ if I translate that into simple language, it is weak evidence that does not justify a conviction on the charge of manslaughter,” said defense lawyer Ilan Katz in response to the indictment.