Israeli police have arrested seven people following a protest against the conviction of soldier Elor Azaria, who shot dead a wounded Palestinian man.
The arrests made on Sunday were due to public order offences during a demonstration that took place outside President Reuven Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem.
“During the night dozens of demonstrators arrived opposite the president’s residence where they wanted to carry out an illegal protest in support of the soldier Elor Azaria,” police said in a statement.
“Some of them blocked the road and refused to obey police instructions. Seven demonstrators were arrested for breach of public order,” police added.
Last March, army medic Azaria was filmed firing a bullet into the head of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, a 21-year-old Palestinian, as he lay wounded on the ground in the city of Hebron after he reportedly stabbed an Israeli soldier.
After Azaria’s arrest, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the soldier from the Israeli public, politicians and fellow soldiers.
After a military court convicted Azaria on Wednesday, the country saw a wave of public protest and threats against officials involved in the trial.
Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Times of Israel, said on Twitter that demonstrators were chanting against the armed forces’ chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot, who ordered the prosecution of Azaria that angered many on the Israeli right.
"Gadi, Gadi, be careful, Rabin is looking for a friend" — #Azaria supporters chant outside IDF HQ, referring to IDF chief of staff
— iℓɑƞ ᛒεƞ ȝıoƞ (@IlanBenZion) January 4, 2017
The biggest protest took place in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday, where over one thousand people assembled to oppose the conviction.
The Tel Aviv rally was initiated by Ziv Shilon, a former Israeli army officer, who called for protests after sharing a Facebook post on Thursday condemning the outcome of the divisive case.
“I feel that our people are divided, hurting, hating, disappointed, desperate,” he said.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has called for a pardon of Azaria, while President Rivlin said he will wait for the legal process to run its course before making a decision on whether to issue a pardon.
Azaria’s conviction has deeply divided Israeli public opinion between those who believe he was wrongly tried and those who say the conviction was the right and proper consequence of his actions.
The 20-year-old soldier could face a maximum 20 years in prison. The Israeli military expects that he will be sentenced on January 15, and his defence team has already said it will appeal.