Soldier who shot neutralized terrorist begins prison sentence

Surrounded by several dozens of supporters who say he’s a hero, Elor Azaria began his prison sentence Wednesday.

Elor Azaria, the former IDF soldier convicted of manslaughter for the killing of a neutralized terrorist in Hebron last year, arrived Wednesday at Prison Number 4 at Tzrifin, near his home in Ramla, to begin his 18-month prison sentence.

Several dozen supporters waited for Azaria’s arrival outside the prison gate to escort his car into the compound, chanting, “We love you” and “He’s a hero.” Tuesday night, supporters gathered at the Azaria family home for a farewell party that included music and balloons.

Earlier Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Doron Piles, chief justice of the IDF court of appeals, rejected Azaria’s request to delay beginning his sentence pending a decision by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Azaria’s request for pardon. Last week, the court rejected his appeal as well as a prosecution request to stiffen the sentence handed down by the court in February.

Azaria has defended the killing, saying he believed the terrorist was planning to detonate an explosive belt. “If I knew then what I know now, I never would have shot him,” Azaria told the chief of staff in his request for clemency.

Eisenkot cannot respond to the request until September 7, when the ruling becomes final.

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