The Yaffo Military Court on Tuesday sentenced IDF soldier Elor Azaria to 18 months in jail for his manslaughter conviction for killing an Arab terrorist on March 24, 2015, during a terror attack in Hevron.

As part of the sentencing, Azaria was also demoted from the military rank of sergeant to private.

The judges presiding over the case decided that Azaria’s jail sentence will start on March 5.

The defense has vowed to appeal the ruling, and had previously urged the court to delay the beginning of the sentence until an appeal is submitted. Azaria’s representation requested 15 days to submit the main claims of an appeal.

Meanwhile, the IDF prosecution said it wanted Azaria’s prison term to start by the coming Sunday.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s decision, the IDF prosecution had requested a three to five year sentence based on past cases of manslaughter.

Azaria’s defense lawyers, Ilan Katz and Eyal Besserglick had requested no jail time and even asked the court to toss the conviction because of problematic pressure by the IDF on Azaria’s family to get him to drop his expected appeal.

Regarding sentencing, IDF Prosecutor Lt. Col. Nadav Weissman had argued that any time spent in open detention on an army base should not count toward jail time.

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Azaria would face an uphill battle on appeal with the IDF courts recently promoting the head of the Yaffo Military Court panel, IDF Judge Col. Maya Heller, and the court’s verdict carefully addressing each of the defense’s arguments. Another appeal could potentially also be made to the High Court of Justice.

If an appeal does not succeed, Azaria could ask IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot for a pardon. If Eisenkot refused to a pardon, Azaria’s last shot at escaping jail would be to ask Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that he pardon him.

Domestically, a pardon would be popular. Internationally, it could create a new scandal.

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