An Israeli army commander testified in the ongoing trial of Elor Azarya, an Israeli soldier accused of shooting and killing a Palestinian man in Hebron in March, saying that there was no justification for what the UN has labeled an “extrajudicial execution”.
Colonel Yariv Ben Ezra reportedly told the military tribunal that Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif did not pose any danger to life when Azarya killed him.
Al-Sharif was shot and wounded alongside Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi on March 24 after the two allegedly stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier near a military checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida area in Hebron.
Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, has claimed that Qaswari’s death may also constitute an execution.
A video released on the day of the shooting showed Israeli medics tending to the wounded soldier while ignoring al-Sharif for several minutes, before Azarya stepped forward and shot him in the head.
Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported that Ezra wrote a report the day before the shooting documenting cases wherein Israeli emergency medical services failed to care for injured Palestinians, stating that while protocol dictates priority should be given to Israeli soldiers and settlers, it is the duty of medics to treat Palestinians as well.
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Ezra said it had been apparent early on that Azarya was unwarranted in killing al-Sharif and that on receiving more information that day, he “understood that the shooting had not been justified”.
The commander also rejected previous arguments made by Azarya’s attorneys that the soldier acted out of self defense, amidst claims that al-Sharif carried explosives or that he could have reached for a knife.
Ezra stated, “I heard no such claim about any such thing. The first time I heard of that suspicion was at noon, through the media, when the event was publicized”.
Ezra’s statements corroborated the testimony given by another Israeli army commander in the case, who told the court in June that there had been no operational justification for the shooting, and that Azarya told him directly, “This terrorist is alive, and he needs to die”.
Claims that the young Palestinian could have reached for a knife were also dispelled after new video footage surfaced last month, capturing events after Azarya executed al-Sharif, showing an Israeli ambulance driver kicking the knife towards the body, which had been far out of arm’s reach.
Palestinians have long held fears that Israeli soldiers and settlers tamper with crime scenes involving Palestinians. Human rights groups have often accused Israel of practicing a policy of extrajudicial executions since a wave of violence erupted in October, resulting in more than 220 Palestinians being killed.