Tel Aviv bus explosion updates: Israeli rescue services report bus explosion may be terror-related


JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli rescue services report a bus explosion in Tel Aviv, unclear if there are casualties.

According to Haaretzcom, police suspect the explosion may be terror-related.


NEAR THE ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER (CNN) -- Israeli bombs and artillery turned buildings, tunnels and bridges in Gaza into rubble overnight into Wednesday in 100 strikes confirmed by Israeli authorities, while Hamas media boasted about their militants' rockets hissing off in the direction of populated areas of southern Israel.

Rumors of an imminent diplomatic agreement Tuesday between Hamas and Israeli leaders that could halt the thunderous explosions at least for a while have not become reality.

But diplomats continue their fervent efforts Wednesday in hopes the skies on both sides will fall peacefully silent and stay that way.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, who is working to broker a cease-fire. She is also to sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

She met for more than two hours Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Clinton is not expected to travel to Gaza, which is run by Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and other countries.

A rocket alarm howled over Ashkelon on the Israeli side shortly after 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, just minutes after Hamas' TV broadcaster al-Aqsa reported its militants' rockets striking there as well as in the towns of Sderot and Ashdod.

Since midnight 17 rockets out of Gaza have touched down in Israel, the IDF confirmed. Iron Dome intercepted 12 more.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Ashkelon heard two impacts but could not yet say if the rockets hit anything or were eliminated mid-air by Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system.

The Israel Defense Forces overnight targeted "dozens of terror infrastructure sites," including the Ministry of Internal Security, which it saw as a "main command and control center." It took aim at a police compound, a "military hideout," and other targets it linked to what it called Hamas "terror activity."

The Israeli military also struck a media building, where it said Hamas "deliberately located" an "intelligence operation center," and a system of tunnels used to transport fuel.

Al-Aqsa claimed two of their journalists were killed, when an Israeli strike targeted their car. CNN called the IDF about the accusation and is awaiting a response.

The IDF also confirmed targeting bridges in central Gaza.

Gazan authorities have reported at least 139 total dead in the conflict as of Wednesday, Israel has reported a total of five killed as of Tuesday.

For hours at dawn Wednesday Palestinians could watch a fixed live image of day breaking over Gaza City flickering over state TV via a fixed camera. The scenes were deceptively serene.

But recorded video inserted into newscasts showed bomb impacts, ambulances, a funeral, residents putting out a fire and rescuers digging through fresh rubble in the darkness to search for the living and the dead. The images hurled the stark reality of war into the sunrise skyline scene.

Hopes for an imminent calm between Israel and Hamas were briefly raised then dashed Tuesday, as diplomats rushed to try to restore peace.

On Tuesday, Clinton offered Israel the support of the United States and expressed hope for a lasting solution as she spoke to reporters alongside Netanyahu at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. She thanked Egypt and especially Morsy for their efforts.

"President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message. America's commitment to Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza," she said. "The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

There was a moment when it looked like the attacks might stop. A senior Hamas official told CNN a "calming down" would be announced at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET). But that did not happen.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later said that Israel had not agreed to terms that would stop the fighting.

Similarly, Egypt's Morsy said Tuesday the "travesty of the Israel aggression on Gaza will end in a few hours." But a few hours passed, and Morsy's office told CNN not to expect any announcement.

A "calming down" could halt violence, but it is not the same as an official cease-fire or truce. Israel has said it wants a cease-fire agreement but has not indicated whether one could be imminent.

"Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton

attack on its civilians," said Netanyahu, standing beside Clinton. "Now, if there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever actions necessary to defend its people."

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 27 people were killed Tuesday, including children. More than 1,100 people in total have been injured. It's not clear how many of the victims were militants.

More than 70 total have been injured in Israel, including soldiers, Israeli officials have said.

Israel said it was holding off on a ground offensive into Gaza to give diplomatic efforts time. Those efforts include talks with Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A source familiar with discussions in Jerusalem told CNN, "One of the Israeli demands is that there should be a period of total calm for 24 hours before committing to any agreement."

Speaking early Wednesday, Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman in Beirut, said he believes Hamas and Israel are close to a cease-fire agreement.

"I can say that we are close, and we are on the edge. It may happen, and it may not," he said. Later, Hamdan added, "I believe there is a good chance to have a cease-fire, which can fulfill the needs of both sides."

Prime minister spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is not interested in a "time out," allowing Hamas to regroup after Israeli strikes have done damage. "We want a new reality" in which Israelis don't live under rocket fire from Hamas, he said.

To succeed, negotiations have to be done "discreetly," he said.

Hamdan said Hamas' actions have been "a good lesson for the Israeli government. It's not good to attack the Palestinians, expecting that they will not react against the attack."

Asked whether Hamas would accept Israel's right to exist, Hamdan said the Palestinian people would not consider it without an end to occupation.

Tuesday's attacks included one aimed at Jerusalem, one that caused casualties in the southern town of Beer Sheva, and one that injured five Israeli soldiers.

Another rocket hit a civilian building in Rishon LeZion, part of metropolitan Tel Aviv, Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said.

Netanyahu, at a news conference with Ban, said Israel was fighting back with "surgical operations against terrorists at a time when our own population is being bombarded by rocket attacks."

"If we hope to make these tactics illegitimate, they should be condemned in the most forceful terms by all responsible members of the international community," he said. "The moment we draw symmetry between the victims of terror and the unintended casualties that result from legitimate military action against the terrorists, the minute that false symmetry is drawn, the terrorists win."

Speaking later at a news conference with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Ban urged diplomacy and said further escalation would put the region at risk.

"The world is concerned, gravely concerned, at the rising loss of human lives. Further escalation would be dangerous and tragic for Palestinians and Israelis and would put the entire region at risk. I am here to appeal to all to halt fire and restore calm immediately," he said. "Further escalation benefits no one. Now is the time for diplomacy."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Ban was among those who had to take cover when sirens sounded in Jerusalem, warning of an incoming rocket.

Military officials said the rocket landed in an open area of a village.

Other violence Tuesday included 11 Hamas rockets that hit the Israeli city of Beer Sheva, causing casualties. More than 30 rockets were fired into the area, but most were destroyed by Israel's Iron Dome interceptors.

In Tel Aviv, a man with an ax attacked a U.S. Embassy security guard, Israeli police said. The attacker, who also had a knife, was arrested, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The IDF dropped leaflets across parts of Gaza Tuesday warning residents to evacuate their homes and go to central Gaza City. The leaflets told them which way to go and what part of the city to stay in once they arrived.

The messages are part of Israel's efforts to minimize civilian casualties, Israeli officials say.

As a CNN crew was getting video of families fleeing an area in Gaza, an explosion shook the windows of a school, CNN's Arwa Damon reported. The target was a vehicle around the corner, and the strike killed two people, she said.

Another Israeli airstrike hit a building that houses the local offices of Agence France-Presse in Gaza City. No one from the agency was injured, according to AFP.

Also in Gaza, CNN saw a group of men drag the body of a man through streets from the back of a motorcycle. The men, who carried weapons, yelled in Arabic that he was a traitor and Israeli spy.

Gaza has endured a crippling economic embargo since Hamas won control of the territory from the Fatah-led Palestinian

Authority after a landslide 2007 election that was followed by intra-Palestinian clashes.

Many Arab and Muslim nations view Hamas as the victim of Israeli aggression.

Diplomats hope to avoid a repeat of 2008-2009, when at least 1,400 people died when Israeli troops invaded Gaza after a similar spate of rocket attacks.

CNN's Dana Ford, Josh Levs, Arwa Damon, Ben Wedeman, Christiane Amanpour, Holly Yan, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Saad Abedine, Sara Sidner, Frederik Pleitgen, Kareem Khadder, Reza Sayah and Talia Kayali contributed to this report.

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