'Man placed bomb, returned to work at McDonalds'

Israeli-Arab is suspected of carrying out November bus bomb; indictments pending against 3 Palestinian suspects.

Muhammed Abed Al Jaffer Nasser Mafarja in court 370 (photo credit: ben hartman)
Muhammed Abed Al Jaffer Nasser Mafarja in court 370
(photo credit: ben hartman)
The central suspect in last month’s Tel Aviv bus bombing planted the explosive device and then took the train back to his job at the McDonald’s eatery in Modi’in, prosecutors stated in an indictment issued on Wednesday.
Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja, an 18-year-old resident of Taiba, was charged in the Tel Aviv District Court 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.
Originally from the West Bank, Mafarja was able to move within the Green Line and acquire Israeli identification documents after a family reunification. 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.
Indictments were pending 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.
The suspects were named on Wednesday as Ahmad Salah Ahmad Musa, a 25-year-old resident of Beit Likya; Fuad Rabah Shukri Atzi, a 27-yearold Beit Likya resident; and; Muhammad Mahfud Said Damra, a 25-year-old resident of Kafr Mazra near Ramallah.
According to the indictment, Musa served as the head of the cell and was in charge of acquiring intelligence on the targets, making the bombs and recruiting others to place the bombs. He is suspected of remotely detonating the Tel Aviv bomb and police said he admitted to planning other attacks during his interrogation.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that Musa taught himself how to make the remote-detonated bomb by watching videos online. The medium-sized bomb was packed with over 800 screws and used fireworks components as its explosive ingredient.
Musa also attempted to recruit would-be suicide bombers – including from among the student population at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, where Mafarja also studied – but was unsuccessful, the Shin Bet added. It also alleged that he planned to carry out a drive-by shooting of soldiers in the West Bank.
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 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 Musa 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 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.
Superintendent Rona Morad- Fingelay, the head of the special investigations branch of the Yarkon Police Subdistrict, said on Wednesday that police had identified Mafarja as the bomber within an hour or so of the attack and that by 4:30 p.m., police and Shin Bet officers had arrested him at his place of work. Shortly thereafter, he led police to the other members of the cell, she said.
Morad-Fingelay added that hundreds of police, Border Police, Shin Bet and IDF personnel took part in the shortlived manhunt.
Though she would not get into the specifics of how police homed in on him, Morad-Fingelay said it was not prior intelligence that lead them to Mafarja, who was seen by a number of people fleeing the scene of the bombing and was caught on CCTV video at the site as well.
She said that during a Shin Bet interrogation following his arrest, Mafarja confessed to the crime and reenacted it for the investigators.
Amira Castro, 56, witnessed the explosion on November 21, and was walking through the courthouse on Wednesday, unaware that the prime suspect had just been indicted.
When asked how she felt about knowing that the man could face several life sentences, Castro, who said that she still has nightmares about the bombing, said, “What does it give me? I’m still traumatized.”