Alleged Tel Aviv bus bomber pleads guilty to placing bomb, but says he didn't intend to kill anyone

Taibe resident says he only wanted to hurt people in order to raise awareness and end Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.

July 14, 2013 11:41
2 minute read.
Tel Aviv bus hit by explosion.

TA bus bomb 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)

The Taibe resident accused of bombing a Tel Aviv bus during Operation Pillar of Defense in November pleaded guilty on Sunday to placing an explosive device on the bus, but maintained that he had only wanted to hurt people, to raise awareness and end the conflict, not kill anyone.

Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja, an 18-year-old resident of Taiba, is charged with aiding the enemy in a time of war, dozens of counts of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a crime, causing an explosion, aggravated assault, illegally transporting weapons and giving assistance to an illegal organization.

Twenty-six people were injured in the November 21 bus bombing in Tel Aviv, which took place a week after Operation Pillar of Defense began in Gaza.

By pleading to the lesser charge, Mafarja could potentially avoid more serious charges that carry longer jail time, like attempted murder.

During his arraignment hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday, Mafarja’s lawyer objected to the use of the word “bomb,” saying that the device was purposely constructed of lower-grade explosives that could not possibly have killed anyone.

He claimed that he had been on another bus previously but had decided not to place the explosive device, fearing it was too crowded and people would be killed.

Originally from the West Bank, Mafarja was able to move within the Green Line and acquire Israeli identification documents after a family reunification.

Indictments have been filed against three other suspects prosecutors claimed were part of a “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.

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, all while looking for a bus full of passengers.

Eventually, he got on a crowded bus, Bus 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 and then left it on the third seat on the right side and got off the bus. 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 Central Train 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 managed to arrest the members of the Beit Likya-based cell.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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