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Israel and Hamas Agree to Cease-fire After Enduring Bus Bomb and Airstrikes

November 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: After another day of violence, a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas was finally announced in Cairo today. But further negotiations on key longer-term sticking points between the two sides were put off for now.

Egypt’s foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, announced the breakthrough, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side.

MOHAMED KAMEL AMR, Egyptian foreign minister (through translator): Egypt has exerted efforts and conducted intensive discussions since the renewed outbreak of hostilities in the Gaza Strip with all parties. These efforts and communications managed to reach an agreement to a cease-fire and the return of calm and halt of violence and the bloodshed that was witnessed recently.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The United States welcomes the agreement today for a cease-fire in Gaza. For it to hold, the rocket attacks must end, a broader calm returned.

In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A short time later this afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters he leaves open the possibility of a ground invasion of Gaza at a later date, but agreeing to a cease-fire made sense now.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel (through translator): I know there are citizens expecting a more severe military action, and perhaps we shall need to do so, but at this time the right thing for the state of Israel is to use this opportunity to achieve a long-lasting cease-fire.

JEFFREY BROWN: The deal followed another bloody day in Israel and Gaza.

We begin with a report by John Irvine of Independent Television News in Tel Aviv. He filed it soon after the cease-fire was announced.

JOHN IRVINE: As the world’s top diplomats were trying to write a new chapter, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was clinging stubbornly to the same old narrative. Depressingly familiar, bus bombings were back.

It may be six years since the last big explosion like this in Tel Aviv, but the emergency services are old hands. They quickly established that the bomber had fled on foot. And, soon, the security dragnet had a suspect. We watched as he was strip-searched and taken away.

One of the first things the Israeli police will be trying to ascertain is if this was a strike by a lone wolf or a bombing that heralds the start of a new campaign. The bomb had been left under a seat. And, predictably, on a city center bus, there were many passengers. They became the many injured.

The bus bombing came as they were cleaning up after a missile strike in a suburb of Tel Aviv. An air raid siren had saved the lives of the elderly couple who call this apartment home. Bus bombings, by comparison, are so terrifying because they come with no warning. This was the first such attack of its kind this time round. Only a cease-fire would give it any chance of being the last.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Residents of Gaza endured another barrage of air assaults today before the cease-fire was called.

John Ray of Independent Television News was on the ground in the territory today.

JOHN RAY: After a week of airstrikes, Gaza has been pummeled by the most intense barrage yet. Under the plumes of smoke and fire, there’s a sports stadium Israel claims is used to train terrorists.

News of that terrorist attack in Tel Aviv was proclaimed from the minarets. Sweets were handed out, but the celebration soon gave way to worry about Israeli retaliation.

These people have already spent week in line of fire and finally they have fled. Today, we found thousands sheltering in a school. It is crowded and chaotic, but safer than the homes they were warned to evacuate by the Israeli military.

Mohammed Sultan says the bombs dropped all around his neighborhood and each time his children would cling to their mother in fear.

The longer there is no truce, the more grief is heaped upon misery. The death toll, Hamas says, has topped 150.

Israel has also wrought vast destruction upon the symbols and seats of Hamas power. As the two sides have circled round a cease-fire deal, the violence has only got worse. This is all that remains of a government compound.

Today, this has not felt or looked like war coming to an end, nor sounded like it either. The lights failed in Gaza tonight, but the shells kept coming.