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Testimonies by Comrades in Arms Chip Away at Hebron Shooter's Defense

Both a brigade commander and a 'simple soldier' agree that the subdued Palestinian assailant was no longer dangerous when he was shot by Elor Azaria.

The two witnesses in Jaffa Military Court on Wednesday could hardly be more different. The first was Col. Yariv Ben-Ezra, the former commander of the Hebron Brigade. The second was a combat soldier who served in the same company as Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was charged with manslaughter for shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif as he lay wounded. The soldier who testified on Wednesday — his name cannot be published — told the court that the stabbing carried out by Sharif on March 24 before he was shot was his first such incident.
But the battle-hardened officer and the young grunt both testified that the scene in Hebron that day did not support Azaria’s claim that he feared Sharif was wearing a suicide vest.
The “simple soldier,” as he called, himself, tried to help his comrade. He even thanked Azaria, from the witness stand, for shooting the Palestinian assailant and said that he himself would have been killed had Sharif been carrying explosives. The soldier’s father even kissed Azaria after the court adjourned.
Yet the testimony of the soldier, who was near Sharif when he was shot, was damning. He told the court that he could see the assailant no longer had a knife, that he saw no evidence of explosives and that he didn’t feel himself to be in danger.
“I’m a young soldier, I don’t know about explosive devices, I’ve never been in such incidents. But had I feared a device, I wouldn’t have stood near” Sharif, he said.
Asked if had considered shooting the assailant, he answered simply, “No.”
Ben-Ezra, asked by Azaria’s attorneys why the wounded assailant hadn’t been checked for additional weapons, responded that the army had concluded in September that this process, which involves stripping the assailant and remaining much longer at the scene, is counterproductive.
“Our understanding is that difficult pictures from the scene of the incident create additional attacks,” he explained, because it makes the Palestinians want revenge. Consequently, the procedure in a dense urban area like Hebron is to remove the assailant as quickly as possible and finishing checking him in a more private location.
Asked about claims that the army began investigating Azaria only because B’Tselem published video footage of the incident, Ben-Ezra said he heard about the killing from the security coordinator of Hebron’s Jewish community, who described it as a case of “irregular shooting.” Ben-Ezra added that he hadn’t even seen the video when he decided to assign the case to the Military Police.
Ben-Ezra also addressed Azaria’s claim that he fired because he feared the assailant had a bomb. “To the best of my professional understanding, when you see the video — nobody felt his life was in danger,” he said. “I’m more than convinced that if people thought their lives were in danger, things would have looked different.”
Therefore, he continued, “I don’t see any justification for the shooting.”
Ben-Ezra added that he first heard Azaria’s story about fearing a bomb from the media, several hours after the incident. He did not hear it from any of the soldiers actually present at the scene, he said. “On the day of the incident, Azaria’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Shapira, told me Azaria’s explanation was ‘terrorists should be killed,’” Ben-Ezra said.
Throughout the hearing, it was clear that the judges were losing patience with one of Azaria’s lawyers, Ilan Katz. Court President Judge Col. Maya Heller rebuked Katz for shouting “Shut up!” at the prosecutor, and later ordered him out of the courtroom for saying, “It’s a disgrace what’s going on here.” Katz was allowed to return a few minutes later, after he apologized.
Combined with Wednesday’s outburst by Azaria’s father, who accused the prosecution of framing his son, it seems Azaria’s legal team and his family both recognize that the testimony isn’t going well for him.

Gili Cohen

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.729646

Schermata 2016 07 08 alle 23.07.33

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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