Families of the victims of a March 2003 suicide bus bombing in Haifa are up in arms over a parole committee hearing set for Tuesday for an Arab Israeli convicted of assisting the bomber, who killed 17 people and injured dozens, many of them children.
Mounir Rajbi, convicted in a January 2004 plea deal of aiding and abetting the enemy during wartime and trying to cover up a crime in connection with the Egged Bus 37 attack, is expected to ask for an early release, cutting his sentence short by one-third.
According to his original indictment, Rajbi, who is being held in the Eshel prison in southern Israel, allowed suicide bomber Mahmoud Kawasme to sleep in his home in Haifa, and even suggested to Kawasme the proper location to carry out his attack in order to kill as many children as possible.
Ron Kehrmann, whose 17-year-old daughter Tal was killed in the attack, told the NRG news site that the families of the bombing victims are afraid that Rajbi will be released on parole.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” Kehrmann was quoted as saying. “Does it make sense that he sat [in jail for less than] 13 years for the deaths of 17 people? It’s not the job of the bereaved family to fight this.”
Victims’ families have in recent months attempted to prevent the parole meeting by appealing to the Israel Prison Service and writing a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also interior minister at the time.
Of the 17 people killed in the 2003 attack, nine were children, most of whom were returning home from school. Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came in the middle of the Second Intifada.
Three others imprisoned for planning and abetting the attack were freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, in which Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for the release of kidnapped soldier.