Shouts of “pardon him!” erupted from protesters outside a Tel Aviv military court on Tuesday where IDF solider Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in jail for killing Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif in March 2015, as he lay immobilized in a Hebron street.
“His life is ruined!” said Sigal Cohen, 48, who was protesting in support of Azaria. “This boy is a solider, who was doing his job. He is our son, every mother should feel that. We are not going to swallow this. We are going to flip the government.”
Azaria’s defense has vowed to appeal the ruling, and had previously urged the court to delay the beginning of the sentence until an appeal is submitted. Azaria’s representation requested 15 days to submit the main claims of an appeal.
Israeli musician Ariel Zilber sings protest song for Elor Azaria outside military court on Feb. 21, 2017 (credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)
Around 100 protesters gathered to support Azaria and once the court announced the sentence, a bit after 1 p.m., they vowed to continue to seek Azaria’s release. “We are here to fight until Azaria is returned home,” one man said.
Others criticized the fact that Azaria was tried in military court, arguing that he should have only been disciplined by his superiors.
“In our opinion the court’s decision is a fabrication,” remarked Shaptai Oz, “[Former Defense Minister] Ya’alon is to blame for when he came out against Azaria.”
Among the protesters some chanted “death to terrorists!” and “Elor is a hero!”.
Ofir Pinhassi from Ramat Gan wore a Donald Trump mask, and requested the new US president to intervene. “Trump is a fighter! a great fighter,” Pinhassi said.
Tuesday’s protest stood in contrast to the protests during the conviction of Azaria in January, which were bigger and witnessed clashes with the police.
Instead protesters were generally calm, while chanting and expressing their anger. Singer Ariel Zilber even wrote a song especially for Azaria, which he sung to the crowd. “Elor the hero,” he sung to the clapping crowd, “Do not give up hope.”
Before the sentencing was reached, Sigal Cohen a mother of six was arguing with a man who said “a good Arab is a dead Arab”. Cohen disagreed stating that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must live together in Israel. However, they did agree on one thing: when Cohen’s son enters the IDF this October, “I’m going to tell him to shoot to kill,” she said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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