Slain Palestinian’s family not surprised by unrepentant Azaria

The family of a Palestinian man who was shot dead two years ago while laying wounded on the ground has slammed recent comments made by the Israeli soldier who killed their relative, in which he said he had “no remorse” about his actions.

“Bring me back to those same seconds of the incident in Hebron – I would have done exactly the same thing,” said Elor Azaria, in an interview published by Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom on Wednesday.

“I have no remorse. I am completely at peace with myself. I acted as needed … what happened afterwards [his trial and conviction] should not have happened.”

The killing of 21-year-old Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif in March 2016 was captured on video by a Palestinian volunteer with Israeli rights group B’Tselem. The footage was then widely shared online.

Al-Sharif had already been shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers, along with another Palestinian, for an alleged stabbing attack near the site of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old city. He was lying on the ground before Azaria, an army medic at the time, walked over and shot him in the head at point blank range.

Fathi al-Sharif, the uncle of Abed al-Fattah, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that Azaria’s comments were not surprising, given the outpouring of support for him from the Israeli public, top politicians and fellow soldiers.

“Since the beginning of this case, when Abed al-Fattah was killed and footage of his murder was shared worldwide on social media, the killer enjoyed immense support from the fascist Israeli government,” Sharif said.

“When he [Azaria] makes such statements to the media, he does so with the full knowledge that his government, from the top echelons, support him,” he added.

“This has given other soldiers the green light to target and kill Palestinians.”

Yusri al-Sharif, Abed al-Fattah’s father, was more forthcoming about what he thought of Azaria’s latest comments.

“I hope he never gets a day’s rest in his life,” Yusri said.

Elor Azaria, who is pictured here with his mother, served nine months for killing a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian [File:Dan Balilty/Reuters]

Perks and fame

Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being convicted of manslaughter but was released in May after spending only nine months behind bars.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called for a pardoning of Azaria, echoing similar statements by prominent government ministers such as Miri Regev, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman.

Al-Sharif’s family at the time said the soldier had carried out a “cold-bloodied execution” not manslaughter, and pointed out that the sentence “is less than [what] a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones”.

Upon his release, Azaria was given a hero’s welcome by the Israeli public and showered with perks and gifts, according to the Israeli magazine Mako.

In a report last week, the publication said Azaria, 22, had received an all-expenses paid trip by an American-Jewish millionaire to a popular tourist destination in western Europe. While Azaria donated the package to friends, out of fear that he could be sued or arrested if he left the country, he continues to enjoy being treated like a celebrity.

“When he arrived for the first time after he was released from jail, I stopped the music in the middle [of the song], went up to the DJ booth and told everyone on the microphone that today we are joined by our king, Elor,” Ras Buskila, a Tel Aviv club owner, told the magazine.

“Since then, almost every time he comes, I let him choose the music.”

Al-Sharif’s relatives, meanwhile, said they had never expected to find justice in Israel’s courts.

“We as a family see Abed al-Fattah’s murder as part of the trials and tribulations of the Palestinian population and what they go, from the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair to the Dawabsheh family being burned alive,” Fathi said.

“We have seen many executions by Israeli soldiers and our experiences are just like what other families of martyrs have gone through.”

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