Israel army defends soldiers’ response to deadly attack

Israeli soldiers huddle near the site where a Palestinian rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers visiting a popular attraction in Jerusalem on January 8, 2017 [AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA]
Israeli soldiers huddle near the site where a Palestinian rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers visiting a popular attraction in Jerusalem on January 8, 2017 [AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA]
Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel’s army defended its troops’ response to a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem Sunday that killed four after claims they hesitated due to a recent manslaughter conviction against a fellow soldier.

A Palestinian man drove a truck into a group of soldiers on a tour in Jerusalem, killing four of them and wounding 17.

Hundreds of soldiers were at the site taking part in the tour on the history of the city.

Video said to be of the incident showed the truck plough into one group then reverse back toward them before coming to a stop. Four soldiers were killed, as was the driver.

While some soldiers fled, others at the scene opened fire and the military distributed a video of one of a soldier saying he shot after realising it was not an accident.

But some on social media and elsewhere claimed they must have hesitated after last week’s manslaughter conviction against a soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground without posing a threat.

“An investigation is underway but this attack lasted several seconds and once the soldiers understood that it was an attack, they fired in the direction of the vehicle,” army spokesman Moti Almoz said in a statement.

Last week’s conviction led to anger among Israel’s far-right, while right-wing politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for a pardon for the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, 20.

Top army brass condemned Azaria’s actions in an extraordinary public rift between politicians and the country’s military.

Far-right activists have made threats against army chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot as well as the judges who ruled in the case, leading to several arrests.

Sunday’s attack and Azaria’s shooting in March were starkly different situations.

Video of the March 24 shooting in Hebron in the occupied West Bank showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the ground, shot along with another man after stabbing and moderately wounding a soldier minutes earlier, according to the army.

Azaria then shoots him again in the head without any apparent provocation.

Judge Colonel Maya Heller said that there was no reason for Azaria to open fire since the Palestinian was posing no threat.

“His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die,” she said.

01/09/2017 7:22 AM by JP News Desk

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