President Shimon Peres on Sunday evening phoned and thanked bus driver Michael Yoger and passenger David Papo, whose actions saved lives in the explosion on the 240 bus in Bat Yam earlier in the day.
Peres asked to hear the details of the event and thanked Yoger and Papo for their actions in discovering the device and clearing the passengers from the bus, saving lives in the process.
The explosion took place shortly after passengers noticed a suspicious object and reported it to the driver, who quickly removed all passengers from the bus.
A bomb squad officer was lightly wounded as he got on the bus to disarm the device, which exploded as he approached it. Because the alert behavior by passengers and driver, a much greater tragedy with many more casualties and even deaths was prevented.
During his conversation with the driver Michael Yoger, President Peres said, "The whole nation is saying prayers of thanks today, you saved so many lives with the speed and bravery of your actions – he who saves one life it is as if he has saved an entire world, you saved many lives today.”
“The nation owes you a debt of gratitude and I would like to personally congratulate you for this act of bravery. Tell your children and your family that we are all proud of their father,” he said.
Yoger thanked President Peres for his words and said, "Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your kind words, it was a pleasure to speak to you. I thank G-d for allowing me to stay alive and not still be on that bus."
Peres also spoke with Papo, the passenger who first identified the explosive device and then helped remove the other passengers from the bus. President Peres thanked him for getting involved and discovering the device and then alerting the driver immediately, his actions saved countless lives.
David Papo told Peres, "A child told the driver that someone had left a bag on the bus, I don't know why but I decided to examine it because I didn't understand how someone could leave such a big bag on the bus. I tried to lift the bag but it was so heavy that it raised my suspicion further. When I opened the bag I saw what it was.”
Papo added, “When the explosion happened we were in the road helping the police to stop passersby and the traffic. Only afterwards when I saw the hole in the bus did I understand the damage that could have been caused."
Police have confirmed that based on their initial investigation, the explosion on the bus from Bnei Brak to Bat Yam was due to a bomb placed by Arab terrorists.
Channel 2 News reported on Sunday night that a manhunt continues for the terrorist who placed the bomb on the bus, noting that the modus operandi of the terrorist was very similar to the attack on a Tel Aviv bus in November of 2012, on the last day of the IDF’s counterterrorism Operation Pillar of Defense.
In that attack as well, the terrorist placed the explosive device on the bus and got off it before detonating it by remote control.
Both the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups have welcomed Sunday’s attack, but neither group has claimed responsibility for it.
The Palestinian Authority and its head Mahmoud Abbas, currently engaged in peace talks with Israel, has yet to comment about the attack.
MK Orit Struk of the Jewish Home party called on the Israeli government to stop releasing Arab terrorist murderers from jail, following the terror attack. The release of the murderers has been presented to the public as a “gesture” accompanying peace talks.
Police Commissioner Lt.-Gen. Yohanan Danino also made a connection between the terror attack and the diplomatic process, although not necessarily in the same sense that Struk did.
“The event in Bat Yam demonstrates that the terror threat is in the background, especially during these days in which an attempt is being made to advance the diplomatic negotiations,” he said.