World powers on Wednesday condemned a bus bombing in Tel Aviv that injured 17 people as a terrorist attack and said it hampered moves to effect a truce in Gaza.
The United States, Israel’s close ally, led the condemnation with the White House denouncing the “outrageous” attack and reaffirming Washington’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.”
The blast erupted as the bus passed behind the Kiriya, Israel’s sprawling defence ministry in the centre of Tel Aviv, and came as Hamas-controlled Gaza was rocked by new Israeli air strikes.
An Israeli offensive, launched last Wednesday with the targeted killing of a Hamas military chief, has claimed the lives of at least 136 Palestinians, while five Israelis, including a soldier, have been killed in rocket attacks.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack.”
Others stressed the pressing need for a truce.
“It is and remains true that an immediate ceasefire is what’s needed right now,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Berlin has made it clear it blames attacks on Israel by Gaza militants for sparking the spiral of violence.
The Russian foreign ministry expressed hope that mediation by Egypt and other countries would help “put an end to the strikes and suffering of the civilian population, open the way for a long-term ceasefire on the condition that Israel’s security is ensured, bloodletting not repeated and the blockade of the (Gaza) Strip removed.”
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande called for a ceasefire “to avoid an escalation”, speaking on behalf of his country and Italy, while addressing a press conference with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Pope Benedict XVI meanwhile voiced his support for diplomatic efforts to reach a halt in fighting in Gaza on the eighth day of the conflict.
“Hatred and violence are not the solution,” the pontiff said, adding that he encouraged “the initiatives and efforts of those who are trying to reach a ceasefire and promote negotiations.”