The military court Tuesday handed down the lightest possible sentence against Sgt. Elor Azaria for shooting dead a Palestinian terrorist who was wounded in an attack on soldiers in Hebron. The prosecution had sought three to five years in jail. The court was divided on sentencing, but lined up behind the majority ruling of18 months jail,12-month suspended sentence for three years and demotion from sergeant to private. The judges agreed that the sanctity of human life must be respected as a fundamental principle for Israel’s military and society. The minority would have given him a stiffer sentence, but the court treated Azaria’s special circumstances as mitigating factors: His service as an outstanding soldier, the fact that it was his first experience in facing a terrorist situation, and the suffering he and his family faced from hostile threats and the sensational nature of his case.
Since he has already served 10 months confined to base, it will be possible to deduct one-third from his jail sentence and set him free.
The court reprimanded senior IDF officers including the chief of staff as well as the defense minister, who later resigned over the case, for inappropriately condemning Azaria while his case was still under investigation instead of waiting for due process.