Elor Azaria, the former IDF soldier who was convicted of manslaughter for the killing of a neutralized terrorist in Chevron last year, arrived at Prison Number 4 at Tzrifin, near his home in Ramla, Wednesday to begin his 18-month prison sentence.
Several dozen supporters waited for Azaria’s arrival outside the prison gate to escort his car into the compound chanting “we love you” and “he’s a hero.” Last night, supporters gathered at the Azaria family home for a farewell party that included music and balloons.
Earlier Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Doron Piles, chief justice of the IDF court of appeals, rejected Azaria’s request to delay beginning his sentence pending a decision by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Azaria’s request for pardon. Last week, the court of appeals rejected Azaria’s appeal, as well as a prosecution request to stiffen the sentence handed down by the court in February.
Azaria has defended the killing saying he believed that Abdel Fatah al-Sharif was planning to detonate an explosive belt. “If I knew then what I know now, I never would have shot him,” Azaria told the chief of staff in his request for clemency.
Eisenkot cannot rule on the request until September 7, when the ruling becomes final.