Last night (April 19th), about 5000 people gathered in Yitzhaq Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to express their support for the soldier who killed a wounded terrorist, and the soldier's family. Before his name was released to the public, he was referred to in Israel as the Hebron shooter.

Elor Azaria is in detention at an Israeli army base awaiting trial for having shot a wounded terrorist, one of two who had just attacked soldiers in Hebron. One terrorist was killed in the act and the second was on the ground, wounded. A number of soldiers were milling around after the attack and, while the Israeli soldier who was stabbed was being tended to by army medics, Azaria came onto the scene. He shot the wounded terrorist once in the head. A later autopsy report indicated that it was his bullet that killed him.

Initial evidence of a suspected crime

A video, minus its sound track, was almost immediately uploaded to the Internet by an Arab man who was in the vicinity of the occurrence and filmed it from relatively close proximity. The scene horrified most people in #Israel but what shocked many of us was the immediate announcement by Defense Minister Moshe Ayalon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before there had been time for even a preliminary investigation to take place, that the soldier had murdered the terrorist and that his behavior was outside the bounds of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ethics. At the same time, news announcements proclaimed that Azaria was being held for murder.

This galvanized Israelis, who were split between those who began calling Azaria a hero and others, such as myself, who tried to persuade people to hold off on reaching any conclusions until all the facts are in. If the terrorist was no longer a threat, then the law is clear -- he is to be taken in alive.

Soon another video became available -- the same one as before, but with sound. In this version, one can clearly hear at least one medic shouting out that the terrorist moved, saying that he may be trying to set off an explosive belt under his coat. One can clearly see in the video that he was wearing a coat that seemed too heavy for the warm spring weather. However, the coat did not look to me like it was bulging. At the same time, I was not there.

Charged with Manslaughter

There is a rumor that Azaria had said that the terrorist did not deserve to live, but the truth of this is not yet clear. The prosecutor determined that the shooting was not premeditated and reduced the charges to manslaughter rather than murder. Manslaughter, however, is a heavy charge and holds a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Further confusing the issue is the fact that the video was filmed by a member of the self-proclaimed human rights organization B'Tzelem, that is viewed by some as an anti-Israel antisemitic group. It seems curious to many that B'Tzelem members seem to always be on-site where supposedly spontaneous events occur, well-placed to take videos and photographs.

Many in the country are worried that charging Azaria with manslaughter may prevent other soldiers from taking decisive action in confusing situations. As if in confirmation of this concern, a letter circulated social media, in Hebrew, in which a former soldier expressed his deep regret for not having killed a man who acted suspiciously even though he was not sure enough of imminent danger. That man turned out to have been a terrorist; he set off an explosive belt that he had intended to detonate in Tel Aviv had he not been stopped at the checkpoint. The soldier was seriously injured and his commander killed.

The entire nation of Israel has been following developments of this case and will continue to do so until the end of the trial. Then we will know if Azaria, the Hebron shooter, acted criminally or if, in the heat of the moment, he made a regrettable error of judgement. #Middle East #Israeli-Palestinian Conflict