Tel Aviv Bus Bombing: Israelis Call for Retaliation After Attack

By in Tel Aviv

A bus explosion in Tel Aviv has stunned Israel. Though those responsible have yet to be identified, most Israelis believe Hamas is to blame. They say that there is no option but retaliation.

Photo Gallery: Bus Bombing Shocks Tel Aviv Photos
AP

Shortly after 12 p.m. local time on Wednesday, the workday was done for Ron Ginat. He works in a large office tower directly on Shaul Hamelech Street a few hundred meters from the Israeli army headquarters. That's where he heard the loud explosion.

"We all went together," Ginat told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "I thought that maybe a rocket hit and the alarm didn't work." Since the the Israeli army's offensive began a week ago, the Palestinian militant group Hamas has for the first time been firing long range rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from the Gaza Strip.

The 31-year-old went to the window and saw people running together down the street. Then he also ran down. "It was totally crazy. People were lying in the street next to a bus," he says. Ginat blanches when he tells the story. He can't fully grasp what has happened yet.

But it still isn't clear just exactly what happened. One thing is certain, though. It was not a suicide attack, which Hamas had been threatening until recently. Apparently the bomb was on a public bus. Some Israeli media outlets have speculated that someone might have thrown a grenade into the vehicle. No one died, but at least 17 people were injured, including three people who suffered severe but not life-threatening wounds from flying debris. The force of the explosion shattered all of the windows on the bus.

For years there have been no bombs in Tel Aviv. This attack escalates the violence in the current Gaza conflict to a new level -- bringing it from Israel's periphery to the country's heart.

End of Negotiations?

"After such an attack there can be no cease-fire," says Ginat. "How can someone negotiate an end to the violence and then do something like this? With that the negotiations have come to an end." Though no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, hardly anyone in Israel doubts that Hamas was behind it. In the Gaza Strip the radical Islamic army and party was said to have celebrated the news of the attack.

Even if a lone individual were found to be behind the attack, a cease-fire is probably off the table now in the negotiationsbetween the Israeli government and Hamas. Just 16 hours earlier, an end to the violence seemed so close. United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon had become involved, making a special trip to Cairo. United States' Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also visited Israeli allies. The pressure from these high-level officials was meant to prevent further escalation in the conflict, but now this hope has been crushed.

German Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle on Wednesday condemned the attacks and called for a cease-fire. "The people must have a peaceful future," he said.

'The Bombing Must Go On'

Paramedic Iyel Fafet was at the scene of the attack. The young Israeli had planned to drive back to Ashdod, an hour south of Tel Aviv, near the border with the Gaza Strip. Rocket alarms were still going off nearly every hour in the area on Wednesday morning, and she was scheduled for on-call duty to support her local colleagues there.

Instead she calmly describes the scene of the explosion to reporters, saying that she saw ten wounded people, half of whom she helped to evacuate. "I still haven't processed it all yet. We first responders are still in operation mode," she says. "But a bomb in Tel Aviv -- that is certainly a new card coming into play." She adds that she does not believe that a cease-fire is still possible.

Ron Ginat is standing with his office colleagues in the street. No one goes back to their desks. The discussions turn back to the question of what happens now. Ginat says that he considers himself to be among the moderates in Israel. He does not support heavier bombardment of the Gaza Strip or a ground invasion. But one thing is clear to him. "The bombing must go on," he says. "We defend ourselves. We have no other choice."

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