Elor Azaria, the former combat medic convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison for killing an already “neutralized” terrorist, has appealed to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to lighten his sentence to community service, and has informed Eisenkot that he will not be filing an appeal to the High Court of Justice.Azaria, who did not express any regret for his actions in the letter, wrote that he wished “to clarify that if I had known in advance what became apparent in hindsight – that there was no explosive device on the body of the terrorist – I would not have shot.”In his appeal to Eisenkot, Azaria wrote that his family has fallen apart and is unable to return to normal because of the case. “I am supposed to continue my life with a big stain” due to the manslaughter conviction, he continued.
“I ask that you accede to my request and to convert the prison sentence imposed on me to a sentence of community service. I want my life and my family’s life to return to normal, to rehabilitate my life and in order to mend the pieces,” his letter continued.On Thursday, in his first public statement since the incident in March 2016, Azaria said that while he still believes that he could be found innocent by the Supreme Court on appeal, he and his family have “suffered terribly” since the incident and he wants to return to routine as soon as possible.“So I’m going to prison to serve the punishment I was given and I won’t appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said on a Facebook Live, adding that “earlier today I appealed to the chief of staff asking that he reduce my sentence. I hope he responds affirmatively.”Turning to the nation’s youth, Azaria said that he hopes that his case will not hurt their motivation to join the army, urging them to go to combat units like his.He is set to begin serving his prison sentence on August 9 after the IDF Military Court of Appeals on Sunday upheld his conviction, jail sentence, and an additional 12-month suspended sentence once he leaves prison.In a statement following the ruling, Eisenkot hinted that he would seriously consider an appeal by Azaria “while examining all the relevant considerations and with my sole commitment to the values of the IDF and its fighters.Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by a military court in January for killing incapacitated Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron on March 24, 2016.In their ruling on Sunday, the appeal judges said that Azaria has yet to express any regret and that he had committed a “forbidden, grave and immoral act” that went against the values of the IDF.Following the ruling on Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Azaria’s family not to file another appeal, tweeting that it should instead request a pardon from Eisenkot. “I have no doubt the chief of the General Staff will take into consideration all the difficult circumstances and his being an outstanding soldier,” the defense minister said.
Supporters of Elor Azaria outside the IDF Appeals Court, July 2017