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Military court will decide tomorrow on postponing sentence for Hebron shooter

Le soldat israélien Elor Azaria (c), entre ses parents Oshra (g) et Charlie (d), devant des juges, le 30 juillet 2017 à Tel Aviv
Dan Balilty (POOL/AFP/Archives)
Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot dead an apprehended Palestinian attacker, was sentenced to 18 months in jail

Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of killing an immobile Palestinian attacker, will find out tomorrow if his request to postpone the start of his prison sentence will be approved by a military court, the Walla website reported.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prosecution formally opposed a request on Monday by Azaria, whose case has captivated public attention, to delay his sentencing until the IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot, makes a separate call on whether to ease his sentence.

The case will be heard at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv at 8.30 local time, the website reported.

Azaria shot dead an apprehended Palestinian attacker in March 2016, sparking an intense debate in Israel about the morality and justification for the shooting.

He was expected to enter Tzrifin prison on Wednesday, but last week, Azaria's attorneys appealed to the military appeals court to postpone his entry into military prison.

It is possible that Eizenkot could commute the sentence, despite being personally attacked by Azaria's attorneys.

Several Israeli media reports show various Israeli politicians supporting a pardon for Azaria, whose trial divided the nation bitterly.

Last Wednesday, Azaria's attorneys opposed an appeal to the Supreme Court in order to request a commutation from the chief of staff, Haaretz reported. In the letter, Azaria apparently expressed remorse for shooting dead the wounded Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.

Yet on Thursday, Azaria made a 360-degree turn and published a video saying he would enter prison with his head held high. And on Friday, Azaria's main attorney, Yoram Sheftel, said on Channel 10 that the chief of staff was considering the initial request.

Over the past few days, Azaria and his defense attorneys have changed their course of action several times as they consider the odds of the chief of staff commuting the sentence.

As things stand, the army will insist on procedure: Azaria will go to jail and only then will the hearing begin on his request to commute the sentence, as would in the case of any other soldier, Haaretz reported.

Responding Azaria's request, the military prosecution wrote that the defense position lacked precedent. The prosecutors added that postponing a sentence would be an exceptional move.

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