TEL AVIV, November 21 (RIA Novosti) – At least 18 people were injured when an explosion hit a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Israeli police said.
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.
In Israel, politicians including Deputy Parlimentary Speaker said the bombing meant Israel had no choice but to invade Gaza.
"It is time to declare war," Danon tweeted. "The time for restraint is over."
Police in Tel Aviv said they were seeking a suspected bomber and that one of the injured is in a “serious” condition.
Around 140 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's eight-day air and naval attack on Hamas-ruled Gaza, 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.
The United States condemned the bus bombing.
“The United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the people of Israel,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
“As I arrive in Cairo, I am closely monitoring reports from Tel Aviv, and we will stay in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu's team. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires,” it said.
Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after flying into Jerusalem late on Tuesday.
“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.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the situation in Gaza "deeply alarming" after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas called on Israel to "halt" its "criminal" attacks on Gaza, after which, he said, Hamas would follow suit.
Israeli Defense Forces said they had attacked Hamas government buildings overnight, as well as over 50 of what a spokesperson described as “terror sites.”
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.