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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders