Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:47PM
Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at the start of a hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at the start of a hearing at a military court in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The United Nations has slammed the Israeli regime for a "lenient sentence" handed down to an Israeli soldier over the killing of a Palestinian.

"We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence that's been given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier who was convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian in an apparent extrajudicial execution," said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

On March 24, 2016, Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria shot Abdel Fattah al-Sharif point-blank in the head in Tel Rumeida neighborhood of al-Khalil (Hebron) in what has been described by the UN as an "extrajudicial execution" of a young man who was already shot and incapacitated.

"A sentence of 18 months to be handed down for such a serious human rights violation is unacceptable," the UN official said, adding that "the punishment, which is excessively lenient, is difficult to reconcile with the intentional killing of an unarmed and prone individual."

The UN rights official said Israeli officials had been contacted numerous times over the impunity of Israeli military forces and the disproportionate sentences handed by Israeli courts.

"This is a chronic culture of impunity that we are talking about; this is not one individual case," she said.

"It also stands in contrast to the sentences handed down by other Israeli courts for less, for other less serious offences, notably the sentencing of Palestinian children to more than three years' imprisonment for throwing stones at cars. This case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity," she added.

Nearly 280 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli soldiers since September 2015, when tensions intensified after Tel Aviv regime forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

"More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since the most recent upsurge in violence began in the West Bank in September 2015. Sergeant Azaria is the only member of the Israeli security forces to have been brought to trial for such a killing," the UN official said.

This image shows Sergeant Elor Azaria (3rd-R) being caressed by his mother before a court hearing in Tel Aviv, February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Palestinians say the short prison sentence handed down to Azaria proves that the Tel Aviv regime condones violence, giving its forces the "green light" to commit more crimes against Palestinians.

Tarek Rishmawi, a Palestinian government spokesman, said on February 21, "The Palestinian government views this light ruling against the murderer soldier as a green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes."