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Blast in Tel Aviv, peace remains elusive in Gaza

November 21, 2012 21:45 IST

A bomb ripped through a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding 27 people and causing a major setback to peace efforts of the world's top diplomats, on the eighth day of violent conflict between Israel and Hamas which has claimed at least 150 lives.

"A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv. This was a terrorist attack," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on his official Twitter account.

Medics said 27 people were wounded in the blast that police said took place on a street which runs just behind the Kiriya, Israel's sprawling defence ministry.

Israeli bombs and artillery turned buildings, tunnels and bridges in Gaza into rubble overnight in 100 strikes confirmed by Israeli authorities, while Hamas media boasted about their militants' rockets hissing off in the direction of populated areas of southern Israel.

Five more Palestinians were killed in the Israeli air strikes.

The conflict has till now claimed 145 Palestinian lives and killed five Israelis.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was dispatched to the West Asian region by President Barack Obama to defuse the crisis in Gaza, shuttled from meetings with Palestinian to Israeli leadership today, after hopes of an imminent agreement between Hamas and Israeli leaders that could have halted the explosive carnage at least for a while dissolved yesterday.

Clinton met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank, according to the US embassy.

"President Abbas told Clinton that Egypt was the key to everything," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said of the meeting.

"President Abbas wished that before Clinton leaves Egypt a ceasefire will be announced," Erakat said.

Clinton then reached Cairo and met with Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who is mediating between Israel and Hamas to end the fighting.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also met with Abbas in Ramallah this morning. "Today the situation in Gaza is deeply alarming," he said, standing next to Abbas at a press conference.

"Rockets aimed at military targets inside Gaza are killing and injuring civilians and damaging...civilian infrastructures," Ban said, calling for an immediate halt to the attacks.

Ban sadly recalled his visit in 2009 during the Israeli incursion into Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.

"It is quite painful for me as secretary general and also personal(ly) as a human being to be back for the same reason," he said.

He demanded that diplomacy pave the way forward and called for the emergence of a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, Clinton met Netanyahu for more than two hours.

"The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike," Clinton told reporters in a joint press conference with Netanyahu.

Clinton is not expected to travel to Gaza, which is run by Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by the US.

Pope Benedict, speaking from Vatican City, called for both sides to end the violence.

"I feel the duty to reiterate once again that hatred and violence are not the solution to problems," he said.

Meanwhile, the US and France have condemned the bus bombing in Tel Aviv.

The Israel Defence Forces overnight targeted "dozens of terror infrastructure sites," including the Ministry of Internal Security, which it saw as a "main command and control center."

It took aim at a police compound, a "military hideout," and other targets it linked to what it called Hamas "terror activity."

The Israeli military also struck a media building, where it said Hamas "deliberately located" an "intelligence operation center," and a system of tunnels used to transport fuel.

For hours at dawn today Palestinians could watch a fixed live image of day breaking over Gaza City flickering over state TV via a fixed camera. The scenes were deceptively serene.

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