Celebration in Gaza as terrorist bomb explodes in Tel Aviv

Smoke rises after an Israeli strike in Gaza City. Picture: AP
Smoke rises after an Israeli strike in Gaza City. Picture: AP
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Israel and the Islamist militant group Hamas have agreed to a Gaza ceasefire deal, said a Palestinian official with knowledge of Egyptian mediation between the two sides.

• Today’s Tel Aviv attack not believed to be carried out by a suicide bomber

• Hamas praise bombing but responsibilty remains unclear

• Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks continued last night

• Hilary Clinton to arrive today to broker peace talks

The official declined to be named or to give further information.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the news, which came on the eighth day of intensive Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip and militant rocket attacks out of the Palestinian territory.

Terrorist attack

An explosion has hit a bus in the heart of Tel Aviv, wounding at least 10 people in what officials said was a terrorist attack.

The blast shattered windows on the bus, which was driving on a street that runs alongside Israel’s defence headquarters. Israel’s ambulance service said three of the wounded were in a moderate-to-serious condition.

“A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv. This was a terrorist attack. Most of the injured suffered only mild injuries,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said police were combing the area for the person who planted the device, apparently confirming reports that it was not a suicide attack. Israeli media said a man had been arrested.

The bombing happened on the eighth day of an Israeli offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and threatened to complicate Egyptian-led efforts to secure a ceasefire.

Celebratory gunfire rang out in Gaza City when local radio stations reported news of the Tel Aviv explosion.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the bombing, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

“Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres...in Gaza,” he said.

“Palestinian factions will resort to all means in order to protect our Palestinian civilians in the absence of a world effort to stop the Israeli aggression,” Abu Zuhri said.

The last time Israel’s commercial capital was hit by a serious bomb blast was in April 2006, when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people at a sandwich stand near the city’s old central bus station.

Air strikes

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza continued last night, as did rockets attacks on Israel from Gaza, countering earlier hopes of a ceasefire.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is expected to arrive in the region today bringing fresh impetus to talks to bring peace to the region which has seen fighting for the last seven days.

The intense nighttime fighing, in which Israel launched at least 100 airstrikes on targets in Gaza and in return suffered sporadic rocket attacks launched from Gaza, came as a disappointment after a ceasefire appeared to be in the offing yesterday.

Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi had said on Tuesday that fighting would end within hours and state-run Israel Radio quoted Israeli sources as saying they expected a ceasefire to be announced late last night.

Israel today said it had attacked more than 100 “terror sites” in Gaza overnight including a large number of sites which they claimed were underground rocket launch sites.

The ministry of internal security, which Israel described as a command and control centre for Hamas, also came under attack.


Rocket attacks from Gaza again targeted Jerusalem as over 100 rockets were fired.

Ms Clinton is today expected to visit the West Bank and Egypt following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If it is announced, a ceasefire would bring Israel back from the brink of launching a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, something Mr Netanyahu has hinted would happen if diplomacy failed.

Some 130 Palestinians and three Israelis have died during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud, aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza.

The operation began with Israel’s assassination last Wednesday in Gaza City of Hamas military wing leader Ahmed Jabari just as a wave of violence was subsiding.

Yesterday the Isarelis told residents in the northern part of the coastal enclave to flee for their safety southward to Gaza City.

According to an Israeli army announcement, Israeli leaflets dropped on northern Gaza, including the border town of Beit Hanoun, said: “For your safety you are required to evacuate your residences immediately and move towards central Gaza City.” Similar leaflets were dropped on parts of Gaza City and its environs.

Speaking from Gaza City, Jaber Wishah, deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said: “People take this seriously but there is no alternative in terms of where to go. There is no safe place in Gaza.”

From the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, deputy mayor Heftsi Zohar told The Scotsman: “We were under massive attack today, with 30 missiles fired at us. There were a few hits on houses but no injuries.’’

She said that amid talk of a ceasefire ‘’a double amount of caution’’ is needed by residents because Hamas is motivated to ‘“get a victory picture’’ with a deadly missile strike.

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City destroyed a car, killing five people and wounding four others, according to reports from the territory.

Yesterday evening, a missile struck another car near Shifa Hospital, killing two and wounding one, according to health officials.

Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif made a rare appearance on Hamas television from his hideout and called for continued rocket attacks against Israel, adding that if the Jewish state opts for a ground offensive “it will offer great hope for freeing our prisoners” by capturing Israeli soldiers.

In a boost for Hamas, Arab League secretary Nabil al-Arabi and the foreign ministers of Turkey, Sudan and other Arab nations paid a solidarity visit to Gaza.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniye told them that a ceasefire would have to include the lifting of Israel’s siege on the enclave.

There were differing versions of what the ceasefire might entail. Al-Jazeera television said the announcement would provide for the cessation of hostilities by both sides. It would also provide for an easing of the flow of goods at crossings to Gaza, the station reported, citing Palestinian sources.

Israeli reports spoke of the creation of an American-Egyptian-Israeli apparatus to monitor the agreement. Israeli leaders have stressed that any ceasefire would have to bring more than a temporary respite.