Israel soldier who shot Palestinian appeals conviction

Jerusalem (AFP) - An Israeli soldier sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant appealed against his manslaughter conviction and jail term on Wednesday, his legal team said.

Elor Azaria was sentenced by a military court on February 21 after an exceptional months-long trial that captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion.

Azaria was caught on video by a rights group shooting Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the head as he lay wounded on the ground in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in March 2016 after stabbing a soldier.

Defence attorney Yoram Sheftel filed an appeal to the military court on Wednesday, a spokesman for the lawyer told AFP.

The outspoken Sheftel joined Azaria's defence team in January.

Three other lawyers, who had represented Azaria from the initial stages of his arrest, announced on Wednesday they were resigning from the case.

One of them, Eyal Besserglick, told AFP they had prepared part of the appeal, which related to both the conviction and the sentencing.

In a statement, the resigning lawyers said they believed avenues other than an appeal would be preferable to Azaria.

A number of ministers in the government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for him to be pardoned.

Military leaders have said the conviction is important for the institution's reputation.

The Palestinian government, the victim's family and the United Nations human rights office criticised the sentence as too lenient.

Azaria had been due to begin his sentence on March 5.

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