Israelis and Palestinians agree ceasefire despite Tel Aviv bus bomb leaving 20 people injured

 

Jerusalem

After eight days of fighting that have left more than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis dead, a ceasefire was agreed last night between Hamas and the Israeli government. It is set to come into effect at 7pm London time.

Palestinians, under a barrage of Israeli missile fire, and Israelis, who have come under militant rockets for more than a week, were forced to wait and see whether today’s sharp spike in violence would scuttle fast moving peace talks between Cairo and Jerusalem, and which involved a number of key international players, including Hillary Clinton, who flew to the region last night.

It is understood that while Israel has agreed to a truce, it will not lift its controversial blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The prospect for any sort of peace deal seemed unlikely at lunchtime when a bomb hidden in the Number 142 bus in Tel Aviv exploded without warning as it passed through King Saul Boulevard, the military and cultural artery of Israel’s populated heartland.

More than 20 people were injured, two seriously, as black smoke billowed into the air above Israel army headquarters, the Ministry of Defence, and Tel Aviv’s opera house, law courts and art museum. Meanwhile 18 Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Police in Israel’s largest city cast a dragnet over the city, searching for two women that some eyewitnesses suspected of planting a bomb and then escaping. The nearby Azrieli Mall was closed and security personnel across the country were placed on high alert.

Two suspects were arrested several hours later on a road leading to the West Bank.

“We have been on alert for the past week, prepared for the possibility of incidents, of terror attacks, like this,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told reporters at the scene.

It was the first attack for six years in Tel Aviv, though it has been targeted by Hamas rockets in the past week, all of which were intercepted.

“There was a horrible explosion. We were sure at first that it was a strike on Tel Aviv and the sirens just didn’t go off,” said Tomer Simon, whose office overlooks the scene.

“I opened my office window and saw the bus wrecked. I ran and tried to help those who were injured as much as I could. All the windows of the bus were smashed,” Mr Simon told the Israeli Ynet news website.

Last Saturday, Al-Aqsa, the Hamas TV station, which has since been targeted in Israeli  attacks on Gaza, released a video taunting Israelis in Hebrew: “We miss the suicide bombings. Wait for us at bus stops and cafes.”

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the explosion. Celebratory sweet cakes were reportedly handed out in Gaza's main hospital.

”Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres...in Gaza,“ Mr Abu Zuhri told Reuters. ”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.“

Meanwhile, Hamas rained down more than 115 rockets across southern Israel, sending people running for cover all day. Seven people were seriously injured. One barrage aimed towards Beersheba was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. A house in Beer Tuvia was struck twice.

Israeli forces kept up a continuous bombardment of more than 100 targets across the Gaza Strip, including four rocket-launching cells in Khan Younis and Jabalia. At least eight people were killed by Israeli airstrikes that demolished several houses and targeted smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border.

The army said it also attacked “several buildings that belong to senior Hamas operatives and serve as command and control centers.”

A four-year-old child was killed and her mother wounded in an Israeli airstrike on al-Nuseirat refugee camp. A two-year old child was killed in an airstrike on Nima tower block in Gaza City, which houses the offices of Agence France-Presse. Foreign reporters protested to the Israelis, saying they were being deliberately targeted. The Israeli army said they had destroyed a ”militant communications centre“ hidden in the building.

”The population lives in constant fear; there is no safe space remaining in Gaza,” reported UNRWA, and blamed “intensive tank fire in the border areas” for “creating panic among the population.”

In Cairo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arrived from meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to encourage negotiations for a long-term armistice that would end the fighting and demilitarise the Gaza Strip under joint US-Egyptian-Israeli supervision.

“Any serious long-term deal that comes out of this has got to ensure that Hamas is not re-armed,” Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt told The Independent in Jerusalem. “We can’t go on as we are. There has to be a sustainable Gaza and that clearly implies that the missiles that are smuggled through the tunnels – that’s got to stop. Clearly there is a route. All those involved in the route have an obligation to make sure that this stops and Israel is right to insist upon that.”

Hamas now faces a solid Israeli-US-European coalition with Egyptian support.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game