Former IDF soldier Elor Azaria entered prison yesterday to begin his 18-month sentence for manslaughter.
Azaria arrived at Tzrifin military base to dozens of supporters outside, a day after the IDF Military Courts of Appeal denied his request to delay the beginning of his sentence until Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot had decided whether to commute his sentence.
On July 30, Azaria’s conviction and sentence were upheld and military sources subsequently indicated that Chief of Staff Eisenkot wouldn’t consider a clemency request unless Azaria actually entered prison and expressed remorse for his actions.
In a first-ever public statement, which he posted as a video on Facebook last Thursday, Azaria said: “I believe that I could have been found not guilty [in an appeal], but my family and I have been through an agonising process for nearly a year and a half that cost my parents their health, and I want to return to normal life as soon as possible. So I will go to prison to serve the sentence imposed on me.”
Azaria also convened a message to the country’s youth in which he said that “we have one country, let’s protect it. I don’t want to think about the possibility that your motivation was harmed by my case. That must not happen. Go to combat [units]. Volunteer. Give as much as you can, for the nation and the country. We have no other country”.
Azaria was convicted in January for manslaughter and sentenced in February for having shot and killed an immobile Palestinian assailant who had stabbed an Israeli soldier in the West Bank City of Hebron in March 2016.
He had been confined to the closed Nachshonim military base since being arrested in March 2016 and was under house arrest since leaving the military last week.
His imprisonment has been the centre of a political debate in Israel over military ethics. Various Israeli politicians have publicly stated that they believe Azaria should be pardoned.