Ramla, Israel: An Israeli occupation regime soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian was freed from prison on Tuesday and greeted by supporters as a hero after serving nine months behind bars, half his original sentence.
Elor Azaria was lifted onto the shoulders of a man who was part of a small group of supporters outside his home following his release and he later paraded the streets in celebration in a small convoy of cars and motorcycles.
Azaria did not speak to supporters but smiled broadly as he was lifted in celebration. Some family members wore T-shirts with Azaria’s photo on it.
The release however drew further anger from Palestinians, who have called his sentence outrageously short.
The mother of the Palestinian killed by Azaria spoke of her resignation.
“There is nothing we can do,” Rajaa Al Sharif told AFP at her home in Hebron. “This is something natural for them.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry called the sentence “racist”.
It accused Israel of “encouraging the occupation soldiers to continue field executions of unarmed Palestinian citizens with full cover and protection from occupation authorities”.
The shooting incident was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.
It showed Al Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the occupation army.
Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria, a sergeant and military medic at the time of the incident, shot him in the head without any provocation.
Comparisons have been drawn to sentences handed out to Palestinians for lesser crimes.
Those critical of Azaria’s sentence have in particular pointed to the jail term of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi.
She was sentenced to eight months in prison in a plea deal after a video that went viral showed Tamimi, 16 at the time, slapping two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank in December.