21 Nov 2012

Ceasefire agreed following Tel Aviv bus bombing

Israel and Hamas agree a ceasefire following eight days of conflict – just hours after 21 people were injured in a bus bombing in Tel Aviv.

The Egyptian government said the truce in the Gaza conflict would begin at 7.00pm GMT.

The breakthrough, at talks in Cairo, follows the deaths of more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. It was announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and has the backing of Israel and Hamas. Following the announcement of the ceasefire, the United Nations Security Council suspended a scheduled debate on the violence between Israel and Gaza.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged “maximum restraint” from both sides and called on them to stick to their pledges under the ceasfire deal.


Earlier, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described the Tel Aviv bus bombing as a “terrorist attack”.

The attack happened on the eighth day of an Israeli offensive against Gaza that was mounted to halt rocket attacks by Palestinian militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The last time Israel’s commercial capital was hit by a serious bombing was in 2006, when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people near the city’s old central bus station. On this occasion, a suicide bomber was not responsible for the attack.

In Gaza today, at least 13 people were killed.

‘Hamas blesses the attack’

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the attack, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for it.

He told Reuters: “Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres … in Gaza.”

On Tuesday, reports that a ceasefire was close to being agreed following talks in Cairo proved unfounded. Israeli sources said Hamas demands for an end to the blockade of Gaza was holding up a deal, while Hamas sources said the main stumbling block was “the temporary timeframe for a ceasefire that the Israelis want us to agree to”.

Hamas was also calling for control over Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, but Israel was seeking assurances that weapons will not continue to be smuggled by tunnel across the border.

Read Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson's latest blog: Cheers in Gaza as bus is bombed in Tel Aviv

Israeli media are reporting that a 72-hour ceasefire could be agreed, followed by further talks about longer-term aspirations.

Overnight, Israeli aircraft continued the bombardment of Gaza. Israel said it had targeted Hamas facilities, including the ministry of internal security and a police compound.

It confimed that it had once again bombed a media centre – the third time this has happened – but said a Hamas intelligence operations centre in the same building had been the target.

Palestinian militants fired 31 rockets at Israel, whose Iron Dome missile interceptor system reportedly shot down 14 of them. No-one was hurt.

Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes since its offensive began. Medical officials in Gaza said 139 Palestinians, most of them civilians and 34 of them children, had been killed.

Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, killing four civilians and a soldier.