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Court Upholds Sentence for Israeli Soldier Who Killed Unarmed Palestinian

Elor Azaria escorted by his mother arrives to Israeli military court in Tel Aviv, Sunday, July 30, 2017.

An Israeli military court has rejected a soldier's appeal after he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for killing a Palestinian.

Elor Azaria, 20, was convicted of manslaughter in January for fatally shooting an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the West Bank nearly a year ago.

The landmark case polarized the nation, pitting much of the public against Israel’s most prized and respected institution, the army. In a rare move, the military condemned a soldier’s actions during a Palestinian attack, while many ordinary people were appalled that an Israeli youth serving on the front lines was hauled into court like a common criminal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted Sunday he would recommend a pardon for Azaria.

The incident in question took place last March in the West Bank town of Hebron, when two Palestinians went on a stabbing rampage targeting Israeli troops. One assailant was shot dead by soldiers and the other was wounded, lying incapacitated on the ground.

Eleven minutes later, a cell-phone video caught Azaria taking aim at the 21-year-old injured Palestinian and shooting him in the head. The soldier claimed that he feared the man was booby-trapped with a bomb; but commanders quickly disputed that and Azaria was put on trial for violating the army’s code of moral conduct.