Israel: Explosion on Tel Aviv Bus Raises Tensions

2 MINS READNov 21, 2012 | 11:11 GMT
Gaza on Nov. 21
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Israeli media are reporting that an explosion — though not necessarily a suicide bombing — has taken place aboard a bus in Tel Aviv. 

Another explosive device, which did not detonate, was also reportedly found on the bombed bus. The blast is reported to have taken place on the corner of Weizmann, Shaul HaMelech and Namir streets, a strategic location in close proximity to Israel Defense Forces headquarters and Ichilov hospital. 
If indeed this was a suicide bombing, it would be the first in Tel Aviv in more than six years. The last bomb in Israel's central city — a suicide bombing at a restaurant in April 2006 that killed 11 people — came at the tail end of the second intifada.  
Notably, the attack did not use a professionally constructed improvised explosive device. The explosion could have been caused by something like a pipe bomb using a low-explosive filler. The weakness of the device could indicate that this was a group less sophisticated than Hamas. It is still unclear who was behind the attack. Initial reports indicate that a group from the West Bank is claiming responsibility, which could mean a militant group is trying to derail the cease-fire talks and steal some of Hamas' glory in the fight. 
A ground invasion does not effectively mitigate these types of attacks. An Israeli ground operation in Gaza would be designed to remove the Fajr-5 threat through a search-and-destroy operation against specific storage and assembly sites. The attack in the Israeli heartland, however, may significantly raise political sensitivities in Israel. It will now be very hard for Israel to agree to a cease-fire. 
There also remains the possibility that Hamas or another front group is behind the attack. In the latter case, Hamas would likely have attacked only if it felt that Israel was not sincere in negotiating the cease-fire and is now shifting its military posture to prepare for a ground invasion. Its strategy then would be to raise human casualties and play on Israeli sensitivities to maintain a symbolic victory. We need to focus on Hamas' reaction to Israeli military moves now. Meanwhile, there is a possibility that this is Hamas' reaction to the collapse of the cease-fire talks Nov. 20. There remains the possibility of follow-on attacks.

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