An Israeli soldier was convicted of manslaughter on Wednesday in the deadly shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian attacker, capping a nine-month saga that has deeply divided the country, reports the AP. The verdict, which marks an extremely rare instance of an Israeli military court siding against a soldier over lethal action taken in the field, threatened to deepen the rift. Military commanders have condemned the soldier's conduct, while much of the public, along with leading members of the nationalist ruling coalition, have rallied behind him. Sgt. Elor Azaria, an army medic, was caught on a cellphone video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who had stabbed a soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron in March. The Palestinian was lying motionless on the ground when Azaria, 20, shot him in the head.
In a verdict that stretched nearly three hours, the head of the three-judge panel painstakingly rejected all of Azaria's defense arguments. She said there was no evidence to support his claim that the attacker was already dead or that the man posed any threat at the time, concluding Azaria "needlessly" shot the man because "he felt the terrorist deserved to die." Tensions quickly boiled over in the cramped, crowded courtroom as the verdict was read. Members of Azaria's family clapped, screaming "Our hero!" A female relative was kicked out of the courtroom for screaming at the judges and calling the decision a disgrace. A second woman stormed out, shouting, "Disgusting leftists." The defense team said it would appeal the verdict. The sentencing is expected in the coming weeks.