Israeli soldier's manslaughter sentence cut by a third: army

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Jerusalem (AFP)

An Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant in a case that divided the country had his sentence reduced by a third Monday by a military parole board.

Elor Azaria was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison for the 2016 killing of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot later reduced the term by four months. Azaria is now due to be released on May 10, the military said.

It did not provide details on the parole board's ruling on Azaria, who was 19 at the time of the shooting in 2016.

Prisoners in Israel often have their sentences cut by a third for good behaviour. Azaria began serving his sentence on August 9.

The March 2016 shooting was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.

It showed Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the 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 apparent provocation.

He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.

The trial captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who denounce the shooting and others who say it was justified.

Top military brass strongly denounced Azaria's actions, but right-wing politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for him to be pardoned.