The outgoing commander of the IDF's Judea Brigade, Colonel Yariv Ben-Ezra, took the stand today as a prosecution witness in the trial of an IDF soldier who killed a wounded terrorist earlier this year.
In his testimony, Ben-Ezra said that he distinctly remembered Sergeant Elor Azariya telling his comrades that terrorists deserve to be killed, and characterized his actions as following through on those sentiments.
The commander – who is responsible for IDF operations in the Hevron area – also addressed the controversial topic of medics providing treatment to injured terrorists. Ben-Ezra said that while the priority is always to treat Israeli victims of attacks before wounded Palestinian attackers, medics are obligated to provide first aid treatment to the wounded regardless of who they are.
He recounted an incident in which an ambulance driver was filmed refusing to evacuate a wounded terrorist for treatment, and said the resulting footage had featured extensively in Palestinian incitement.
The terrorist was one of two Arab knifemen who attacked an IDF patrol in March, leaving one soldier moderately wounded before they were neutralized. While the other terrorist was fatally shot during the initial attack, the second terrorist was still alive and moving when Azariya was filmed firing the fatal shot to his head some minutes later. Azariya's defense team insist he acted out of fears the terrorist was hiding an explosives belt or otherwise still posed a threat, but the prosecution claims his actions were motivated by revenge and constitute a field execution and serious violation of the IDF code of ethics.
Ben-Ezra also corroborated claims that Azariya's immediate superiors had already issued a formal complaint over his actions and initiated an investigation even prior to the emergence of footage from the incident, taken and distributed by the far-left B'Tselem NGO.
"I arrived at the scene, and was approached by Yoni Bleicher, the chief of security of the Jewish community (in Hevron), who said to me that there was a serious (incident involving) gunfire during the event which I needed to investigate," he recounted. "He described to me how after the incident had ended, there was gunfire which was fired without a clear (reason)."
"I called the Shimshon Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel David Shapira, and told him to check what Yoni told me," he continued.
"After a minute and a half the commander got back to me and said that we are talking about a very serious incident," he said of Azariya's gunfire, adding that Azariya's company commander also described the incident to him in similar terms and that the battalion commander had said that in his assessment there was no justification for the shooting as the terrorist did not pose a threat.
Ben-Ezra's testimony follows that of ambulance driver Ofer Ohana yesterday, which saw a tense exchange with prosecutors over his actions in kicking the immobilized terrorist's knife towards him after Azariya's actions.
Ohana was repeatedly grilled by prosecutors, who challenged that he had done so in order to cover up for Azariya, while Ohana insisted he merely kicked the knife back to where it had been all along after his ambulance had accidentally knocked it away from the terrorist.