The man who bombed a Tel Aviv bus and wounded 26 people during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday.
Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja was convicted as part of a plea bargain he signed in December 2013, which dropped the harshest charges against him and allowed him to avoid a life sentence.
Mafarja’s lawyer, Laviv Habib, was unsuccessful in his efforts to obtain a shorter sentence for his client than the 25-year maximum under the plea deal.
Habib said that, although Mafarja’s actions were “not simple, he was young, his failure was as a teenager who was not yet 18 at the time of the bombing, he was pressured by others, and did not fully understand the consequences of his actions.”
Habib added that now Mafarja “is taking responsibility, has shown regret” and reasserted an earlier argument that the explosive device was a “weak bomb” designed to convince the IDF to end its military actions in Gaza and “not primarily to kill.”
Pressed on Mafarja’s intent, Habib admitted that while Mafarja said he did not intend to kill, he knew it was a possible consequence of his actions; but in the end no one died, despite many injuries.
The prosecution agreed to drop the most severe charge, of aiding the enemy in a time of war, which could have carried a life sentence. It did so because of Mafarja’s youth, the absence of fatalities, and the possibility that the charge would not necessarily result in a life sentence.
Mafarja was convicted of performing an act that showed intent to assist an enemy, attempted murder, causing the explosion of explosive material, and causing serious bodily harm.
Originally from the West Bank, Mafarja was able to move within the Green Line and acquire Israeli identification documents after a family reunification.
According to prosecutors, on the morning of the bombing, Mafarja spent a few hours riding around on several different buses in Tel Aviv while carrying the bomb, looking for a bus full of passengers.
Eventually, he got on a crowded bus, a No. 142 from Ramat Gan to Tel Aviv.
Just before he arrived at a bus stop at the Ramat Gan industrial district, Mafarja activated the bomb, left it on the third seat on the righthand side of the bus, and got off. He called one of his associates immediately afterward and told him that the bomb was in place. Minutes later, the bus arrived near the corner of Shaul Hamelech Boulevard and Henrietta Szold Street, where the bomb was detonated.
Prosecutors said that, after Mafarja got off the bus, he took a train from the Savidor station back to Modi’in, where he returned to his job at the McDonald’s eatery in the Azrieli Mall.
The Shin Bet and police said that several hours after the bombing they arrested Mafarja and the other members of the Beit Likya-based cell.
Indictments have been filed against several other suspects who prosecutors claimed were part of the “military cell” from the Ramallah area, which they said also plotted to carry out suicide bombings and shooting attacks against politicians and soldiers.
In January, the Military Advocate-General’s Office filed an indictment with the West Bank Military Court of Judea against the alleged mastermind of the bus bombing, Ahmad Salah Ahmad Musa, a 25-year-old resident of Beit Likya.