Hebron shooter Azaria after release: 'I would do exactly the same thing'

During his trial, Azaria told the Military court that he would have acted differently. Today, "take me back right now, I would do exactly the same."

Hebron shooter Elor Azaria returns for Hebron for first time after being released from jail, July 3, 2018 (Tzipi Shlisel/TPS)
lor Azaria, the former IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting an incapacitated Palestinian terrorist in 2016, said in an interview published on Wednesday he does not regret his actions.
“I fired a single shot. The terrorist’s head was his only exposed organ,” said Azaria to Israel Hayom in his first major interview since his release from prison three months ago, and nearly two-and-a-half years after the incident. “I know I’m innocent and acted correctly. Look, after the event, I continued my guard duty in Hebron for four hours, with my rifle at the ready. An illegitimate shooting? [In that case] the officer in the field takes the rifle, dismantles it and removes you [from the scene].”
The Azaria affair enraged the country on both ends of the political arena. In March 2016, then-20-year-old Azaria shot a Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, when the latter was rendered incapacitated. The incident immediately raised an uproar about social and military justice and ushered in a nationwide debate regarding the question of a soldier’s rights and responsibilities, “executions in the field” and, especially, loyalties to the IDF.
During the trial, Azaria told the military court that he would have acted differently. When requesting to commute the remainder of his sentence, Azaria appealed to President Reuven Rivlin and stated that he wouldn’t have shot Sharif. Rivlin rejected his request at the time.
Now, Azaria is singing a different tune.
“I have no regrets,” emphasized Azaria. “I have no doubt. Take me back right now to those seconds in Hebron, I would do exactly the same thing. Because it’s the right way to act.”
Videos of the incident, which went viral and brought widespread international condemnation, show Azaria shooting the incapacitated terrorist while the latter was lying on the ground – although Azaria claimed his shots were in self-defense as he feared a knife attack or concealed explosive vest.
Azaria was originally sentenced to 18 months and was demoted to the rank of private in February. His sentence was later shortened to 14 months, but he was released from prison in May, five months before it ended.
On Tuesday, Azaria gave an exclusive interview and expressed his defiant stance in support of his actions.
Although many Israelis strongly object to Azaria’s conduct, he has been showered with the love of hundreds of supporters since his release.
“The people of Israel are united and behind us. I thank [everyone] for their support and assistance to my family at all times,” he said. “I will always love this country and the IDF.”
Despite his record, he is expected to serve in the reserves.
“Nothing would have happened if everything had been done as it should have [been done]; if there had been no distortion of justice, and all kinds of senior officials hadn’t opened their mouths and said nonsense,” he said. “They tried to get me to agree to a settlement, confess and express remorse. No way. I have nothing to regret.”
Sarah Levi contributed to this report.