- Title: Tensions high ahead of verdict in Hebron shooting case
- Date: 4th January 2017
- Summary: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (JANUARY 4, 2017) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE DEMONTRATING IN SUPPORT OF AZARIA OUTSIDE COURT ROOM
- Embargoed: 19th January 2017 09:07
- Keywords: Israel soldier court Hebron
- Location: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL/HEBRON, WEST BANK
- City: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL/HEBRON, WEST BANK
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA0035XNZ8EF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Tensions were high in Israel as a military court was set to hand down its verdict on Wednesday (January 4) in a divisive shooting case.
Saregeant Elor Azaria, 20, was charged with manslaughter in killing of a Palestinian assailant which he shot dead as he lay wounded and motionless on the ground after attempting to stab an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron last March.
The shooting, and the tense moments leading up to it, were captured on video by a Palestinian human rights activist in the city of Hebron. The video footage, distributed to news organisations, ensured that the incident, which came amid a wave of Palestinian stabbings, drew international attention.
The case has divided Israel, with many citizens, right-wing politicians and some celebrities rallying behind Azaria, saying he is being made a scapegoat and should be let off lightly.
His actions, they say, were justified by the barrage of Palestinian violence and the general atmosphere of alarm in Hebron, a city where hundreds of Israeli settlers, under heavy army protection, live among some 200,000 Palestinians.
On the other side stand serving members of the military establishment, who say the shooting cannot be countenanced, that Azaria, who made far-right, anti-Palestinian postings on Facebook before being conscripted, acted in cold blood and outside military procedures.
Surveys show the public backs the soldier -- in one poll, nearly half of Israeli Jews agreed that any Palestinian who carries out an attack should be killed on the spot. Palestinians were outraged, but their alarm hardly figured in the public debate in Israel, which dominated airwaves and the internet.
Rallies in support of the soldier, some of them backed by right-wing politicians and pop singers, gathered momentum.
While the family of the Palestinian assailant who was shot dead was watching the live broadcast in Israeli Television ahead of the expected verdict, a few hundred demonstrators were chanting slogans in support of Azaria outside the courtroom.
The manslaughter charge can carry a jail term of up to 20 years, although legal commentators have suggested a sentence of four to five years is more likely if he is found guilty.
Ahead of the verdict, family members and supporters have declared that the trial cannot have been fair because of the public outcry and debate the case has provoked.
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