Israel's war against terrorism took another bloody turn as a bus exploded in Tel Aviv. Then came a cease-fire.
JERUSALEM — Israel's war against terrorism took another bloody turn as a bus exploded in Tel Aviv in what police described as a terrorist attack. A few hours later, a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was announced.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced the agreement Wednesday evening in Cairo.
Prior to the announcement, President Barack Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accepted Obama's recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance to work.
Obama reiterated his commitment to Israel's security and made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians, according to the White House. He also commended Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself. Obama told Netanyahu that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.
Clinton called the cease-fire agreement a "critical moment for the region," and praised Egypt for its leadership on the agreement. She said the next steps include moving toward a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Five Israelis and more than 140 Palestinians have been reported killed since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Nov. 14 with the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. The assassination followed several days of intense rocket bombardment on southern Israel, and Hamas stepped up its rocket fire against Israel after the operation began. Hamas missiles have reached as far as the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas nearly 50 miles away.
The bus bombing left at least 21 people injured in Wednesday's blast, according to a spokesman at Sourasky Medical Center – Ichilov Hospital.
The bus exploded at noon in the heart of Tel Aviv, near the central army base called the Kirya.
Police said they believe a bomb stuffed with ball bearings and screws was tossed on the bus when its doors opened at a stop.
Palestinians in Gaza City began celebrating in the streets when news of the bus attack became known, according to Israel's Channel 1.
"The United States condemns today’s terrorist attack on a bus in Tel Aviv. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those injured, and with the people of Israel." White House spokesman James Carney said in a statement. "These attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous. The United States will stand with our Israeli allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. The United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people."
On Tuesday, an Israeli soldier and an Israeli civilian were killed in separate rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Cpl. Yosef Partuk, 18, of the West Bank town of Emanuel, was killed by a rocket that landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, in southern Israel, on Tuesday afternoon.
In a separate rocket attack in the same area, an Israeli civilian was killed, another was seriously injured and 15 soldiers were hurt.