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Israeli PM to recommend pardon for soldier convicted of killing Palestinian

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to recommend a pardon for a soldier convicted of fatally shooting an injured Palestinian attacker.

Mr Netanyahu and other ministers spoke out in support of army combat medic Sergeant Elor Azaria after an Israeli military court upheld his 18-month sentence.

Azaria was recorded on a mobile phone video as he fatally shot a badly wounded Palestinian who had previously attacked a soldier with a knife, wounding him.

The Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was lying on the ground unarmed when Azaria shot him in the head.

The 2016 incident occurred in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron at a time of frequent Palestinian attacks.

Israel's top generals pushed for the prosecution of the soldier they say violated the military's code of ethics.

However large segments of the public, including politicians on Israel's nationalist right, sided with Azaria. Some called him a hero who was being wrongly persecuted.

Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the soldier's family not to continue appealing. "It's a difficult day," he said adding the ruling must be respected.

He said the military's Chief of Staff should be asked to pardon him. "I have no doubt he will take into consideration the difficult circumstances," he said.

Mr Netanyahu also tweeted that he will recommend a pardon. Other ministers also called for the soldier to be pardoned.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the court decision.

"Upholding the conviction of a soldier convicted of fatally shooting a man who posed no threat sends an important message about restrictions on lethal use of force," said Sari Bashi, the Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.


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