Blast Hits Tel Aviv Bus

15:07, 21 November 2012
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At least 18 people were injured when an explosion hit a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Israeli police said, according to RIA Novosti.

A spokesperson for the Islamist group Hamas said it welcomed the bombing as a "natural response" to the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, but said it was not behind the attack.

Police said they were seeking a suspected bomber.

One of the injured is in a “serious” condition, Israeli police said.

The death toll in Israel's eight-day air and sea attack on Hamas-ruled Gaza stands at 136 Palestinians, officials say. Gaza’s health ministry says many children are among the Palestinian dead.

Israel says it began its attack on the city of 1.7 million in response to a surge in rocket attacks from Gaza.

Palestinian rockets continued to hurtle toward Israeli towns and cities on Wednesday, but most were knocked down by the sophisticated Iron Dome air defense system. Israel says five people have been killed by Palestinian rockets in the last eight days.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that a second bomb that did not explode had also been found on the bus in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli Defense Forces spokesman said on Twitter that Hamas members had celebrated on the streets of Gaza as news of the bus bombing broke.

The bombing comes amid frantic negotiations to end the violence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after flying into Jerusalem late on Tuesday. Clinton is due to visit the West Bank and Cairo later today.

“It is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza,” she said ahead of talks with Netanyahu. “The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm be restored.”

But Netanyahu, speaking before his meeting with Clinton, said that while Israel would prefer to see a “diplomatic solution” to he crisis, it reserved the right to take whatever action it deemed necessary to halt the Palestinian rocket attacks that provoked its onslaught.

Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Gaza, but has said it will give diplomatic efforts a chance before issuing the order to invade. Tel Aviv is demanding the cessation of rocket fire from Gaza as the main condition for a truce.

Israel’s last invasion of Gaza, in 2008-2009, killed 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the 22-day-long Operation Cast Lead.

A Haaretz-Dialog poll taken on Sunday indicated that 84% of the Israeli public supports the military campaign, with 12% opposing it. But only 30% would support a ground offensive in Gaza, the pollster reported.

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