A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv yesterday, wounding 15 people in what Israeli officials said was a terrorist attack that could complicate efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Celebratory gunfire rang out across Gaza as the news spread and the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas praised the bombing, but no one claimed immediate responsibility.
The blast shattered windows on the bus as it drove along a tree-lined street next to Israel’s huge defense ministry headquarters. Israel’s ambulance service said four people suffered moderate-to-severe injuries and 11 were slightly hurt.
Police said it was not a suicide attack.
The driver, who escaped largely unscathed, said he had not seen anyone suspicious get on board.
“I felt the explosion ... Smoke was everywhere, you couldn’t see a thing,” he said.
The blue-and-white vehicle was not torn apart by the blast, indicating it was a relatively small device.
The bombing happened on the eighth day of an Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip and coincided with intensive diplomatic efforts to secure a lasting truce.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the explosion.
“Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres ... in Gaza,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the attack, saying nothing justified the targeting of civilians.
The US, Israel’s main ally, also condemned the bus bombing.
“These attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous,” the White House said.
More than 140 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, have died so far in Israel’s Gaza offensive. Five Israelis, including one soldier, have also been killed.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton flew from Israel to Cairo to meet Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who is spearheading ceasefire negotiations.