Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes in southern Gaza on November 21, 2012. Fighting raged on both sides of Gaza's borders Wednesday despite intensified efforts across the region to thrash out a truce to end a week of violence. UPI/Ismael Mohamad
Updated Nov. 21, 2012 at 7:42 AM
Published: Nov. 21, 2012 at 7:05 AM
JERUSALEM, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Frenzied efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas teetered Wednesday as officials met and a bomb exploded on a Tel Aviv bus.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was set to convene the nine-member ministerial forum to discuss terms for a truce. He was also expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a second time on her return from Ramallah where she met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. No details of the meeting were released.
An unnamed Israeli government official told Ynetnews.com "misunderstandings are withholding the cease-fire. It is not over until it is over. It is in the interest of Egypt, Hamas and Israel to end [the conflict] but there is nothing set yet," he said.
Initially a truce was to have been announced simultaneously in Jerusalem and Cairo on Tuesday night, but shortly before midnight, Netanyahu at a joint press conference with Clinton said discussions concerning a cease-fire were still ongoing.
Clinton spoke of the need for "a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians." Clinton reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel's security "is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza."
Netanyahu said Israel would be a "willing partner" in negotiations to reach a long-term cease-fire.
"If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people," he told Clinton.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz instructed the army to continue operating against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, saying the soldiers massed along the Gaza border are prepared for a ground offensive if instructed to do so.
On the ground, missiles fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza exploded in Beersheba, Be'er Tuviya, Ashdod, and Ashkelon and other Israeli communities surrounding Gaza. No injuries were reported but extensive damage was caused to property. In Tel Aviv, a bomb exploded aboard a bus, injuring 10 people.
The Israeli air force bombed terrorist targets in Gaza, including buildings, bridges, smuggling tunnels and rocket launching sites. Ma'an news agency said two Palestinians were killed in an airstrike in Khan Yunis earlier in the day.