WRAPUP 5-Gaza shakes, bus explodes in Tel Aviv as Clinton seeks truce

Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
Reuters Middle East

* Clinton seeks ceasefire deal and "broader calm"

* Goes to Egypt, main truce broker, for ceasefire talks

* Israel says wants long-term deal to end rocket strikes

* Ten wounded in Tel Aviv bus blast

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday pursued a Gaza truce, with Israel

and Hamas still at odds over key terms, as Israeli air strikes

shook the enclave and a bomb exploded on a Tel Aviv bus.

After talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud

Abbas, Clinton held a second meeting with Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Egypt for discussions

with President Mohamed Mursi, whose country is the main broker

in efforts to end eight days of fighting.

In Tel Aviv, targeted by rockets from Gaza that either did

not hit the city or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome

interceptor system, 15 people were wounded when a commuter bus

was blown up near the Defence Ministry and military


Israel and the United States branded it a terrorist attack,

and a White House statement reaffirmed Washington's "unshakeable

commitment to Israel's security".

The explosion, which police said was caused by a bomb placed

on the vehicle, touched off celebratory gunfire from militants

in Gaza and threatened to complicate truce efforts.

Israel's best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said an

emerging outline of a ceasefire agreement called for Egypt to

announce a 72-hour ceasefire followed by further talks on

long-term understandings.

Under the proposed document, which the newspaper said

neither party would be required to sign, Israel would hold its

fire, end attacks against top militants and promise to examine

ways to ease its blockade of Gaza, controlled by Hamas Islamists

who do not recognise the Jewish state's right to exist.

Hamas, the report said, would pledge not to strike any

Israeli target and ensure other Palestinian factions in the Gaza

Strip also stop their attacks.


An Israeli political source said differences holding up a

deal centred on a Hamas demand to lift the Gaza blockade

completely and the kind of activity that would be allowed along

the frontier, where Israeli troops often fire into the enclave

to keep Palestinians away from an area near a border fence.

Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq said the main stumbling block

was "the temporary timeframe for a ceasefire that the Israelis

want us to agree to".

While diplomatic efforts continued, Israel struck more than

100 targets in Gaza, including a cluster of Hamas government

buildings, in attacks that medical officials said killed 10

people, among them a 2-year-old boy.

Palestinians militants fired more than 30 rockets at Israel,

causing no casualties, and the Iron Dome interceptor system shot

down 14 of them, police said.

Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes since the

offensive began with the killing of a top Hamas commander and

with declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching rocket

attacks that have long disrupted life in its southern towns.

Medical officials in Gaza said 144 Palestinians, more than

half of them civilians, including 36 children, have been killed

in Israel's offensive. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into

Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the military said.


The London-based Al Hayat newspaper, citing sources in Hamas

and Islamic Jihad, said Israel wanted a 90-day period to

determine "good intentions" before discussing Palestinian

demands, a position the report said the groups have rejected.

Rishq said a short-term truce, whose proposed duration he

did not disclose, "would only buy (Israel) time" until a general

election in January and "we would have accomplished nothing in

the way of a long-term truce".

Hamas sources said the group was also demanding control over

Gaza's Rafah borders with Egypt, so that Palestinians could

cross easily, and Israeli guarantees to stop assassinating Hamas


Israel, one of the Hamas sources said, wanted a commitment

from the group to stop smuggling through tunnels that run into

Gaza under the Egyptian border. The tunnel network is a conduit

for weapons and commercial goods.

News of the Tel Aviv bus bombing, the first serious blast in

Israel's commercial capital since 2006, caused oil prices to

rise by more than $1 per barrel on concerns the Gaza crisis

could lead to wider regional conflict that would disrupt oil


Clinton, who flew to the region from an Asian summit, said

after Tuesday's meeting with Netanyahu that it was "essential to

de-escalate the situation".

"The rocket attacks from terrorist organisations inside Gaza

on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm

restored," she said.

Clinton earlier assured Netanyahu of "rock-solid" U.S.

support for Israel's security, and praised Mursi's "personal

leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far" to end the Gaza

conflict and promote regional stability.

"As a regional leader and neighbour, Egypt has the

opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and

constructive role in this process. I will carry this message to

Cairo tomorrow (Wednesday)," she said, pledging to work for a

truce "in the days ahead".


Netanyahu told Clinton he wanted a "long-term" solution.

Failing that, Netanyahu made clear, that he stood ready to step

up the military campaign to silence Hamas' rockets.

"A band-aid solution will only cause another round of

violence," said Ofir Gendelman, a Netanyahu spokesman.

Along the Gaza border, Israeli tanks, artillery and infantry

remained poised for a possible ground offensive in the densely

populated enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians.

But an invasion, likely to entail heavy casualties, would be

a major political risk for Netanyahu, who is currently favoured

to win the upcoming Israeli election. More than 1,400

Palestinians were killed in Israel's three-week war in the Gaza

Strip in 2008-9, prompting international criticism of Israel.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Clinton held talks with

Palestinian President Abbas, reiterating U.S. opposition to his

bid to upgrade the Palestinians' status at the United Nations.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington

believed "the best way to achieve statehood is through direct

bilateral negotiations". Those talks collapsed in 2010 in a

dispute over Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

"Secretary Clinton informed the president that the U.S

administration is exerting every possible effort to reach an

immediate ceasefire and the president expressed his full support

for this endeavour," said Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb


"Once the Israelis accept to stop their bombardments, their

assassinations, there will be a comprehensive ceasefire

sustained from all parties," Erekat said.

A Palestinian official with knowledge of Cairo's mediation

told Reuters that Egyptian intelligence officials would hold

further discussions on Wednesday with leaders of Hamas and the

Islamic Jihad group.

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