International mediators, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are working intensively to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza, but today's bombing has dimmed Israelis' interest in negotiations.
UPDATE 12:40 p.m. A cease-fire is set to begin at 2 p.m. E.T ( 9 p.m. local time) between Israel and Hamas, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.
A bomb explosion rocked a commuter bus in downtown Tel Aviv this morning, injuring about two dozen people as militants tried to widen attacks on Israel. The bombing is likely to dim international mediators' efforts to finalize a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after a week of fighting.
The explosion was the first bombing in Israel’s economic and cultural capital in six years. It comes after a week that saw rockets fired from the Gaza Strip reach the area around Tel Aviv for the first time. Those caused no casualties in the city because they either were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome Rocket system, or fell in open areas.
Hamas had vowed to open a bombing campaign against Israel in retaliation for the offensive that started Nov. 14 with the killing of its top military chief. But it was initially unclear exactly who is responsible for the bombing. Preliminary reports indicated that one or several bombers threw an explosive on the bus and fled the scene, prompting Israeli police to begin a manhunt in response.
The bombing blew out the windows of the public bus just outside the walls of the office complex housing Israel's military main command, tipping the national mood away from an anticipated cease-fire deal and in favor of continuing an offensive against Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza.
"I was passing by the bus station when, all of a sudden, I heard a boom. Then I saw smoke and thought, 'It’s definitely an attack'," says Golan Tuviya, a passerby who was just a few feet away from the explosion. "Then I just fled."