Senior Israeli officials estimate that Wednesday's terror attack on a Tel Aviv bus will not affect the ceasefire negotiations and told Ynet that the objective is to reach an agreement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has relayed a message to all Israeli embassies following the terror attack in Tel Aviv. "At the height of international efforts to secure a ceasefire, the terrorists have chosen to escalate their attacks against civilians. This terror attack complicates those efforts," the message said.
"The current escalation in violence emanating from Gaza began on November 10, when 121 rockets were fired by Hamas and other terror organizations," the message read.
"Israel displayed great restraint and limited its operation over the past few days despite the continued missile attacks. The terrorists, on the other hand, have decided to expand their attacks. While Israel is doing all it can to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza, Hamas and other terror groups are deliberately trying to harm Israeli civilians with rockets and bombs.
"Israel is exercising its right to defend itself and to protect its citizens from the rockets fired from Gaza," the Foreign Ministry said in the missive.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who returned from Ramallah and was scheduled to conduct an additional round of meetings in Jerusalem in an attempt to promote a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, departed for Egypt, which is heading to truce efforts. Israel's leading nine ministers convened at 2:30 pm to discuss a possible ceasefire.
A few minutes prior to the terror attack, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a joint press conference in Ramallah following a discussion on the situation in the Gaza Strip.
Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki-moon in Israel (Photo: AFP)
Ban called for political negotiations with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. The time has come for a Palestinian state alongside Israel,
Abbas said that he asked Ban to take action, "in order to stop Israel's reckless attacks." Abbas emphasized that he is interested in peace talks based on a two-state solution and the 1967 borders.
Earlier on Wednesday, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported that Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources said that Israel has offered a 90-day ceasefire during which their goodwill will be assessed prior to talks on Palestinian demands.
Soldiers take cover during red alert (Photo: AFP)
However, the Palestinian side has rejected the offer, sticking to three points: A mutual ceasefire, an end to the targeted killings and an opening of the border crossings immediately after the calm is put into affect.
Political sources in Israel said Wednesday morning that certain "misunderstandings are delaying the ceasefire. It's not over till it's over. Egypt, the Hamas and Israel have an interest in seeing an end to this, but in the meantime, the points of agreement have yet to be finalized.
Al-Hayat reported that talks were held between Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders and armed organizations in Sinai, including "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis," in order to prevent them from attacking Israel during this period.
Sources involved in the negotiations told the paper that Islamic Jihad operatives planned to fire missiles on Israel to take the pressure off of the Gaza Strip.
Interior ministry in Gaza, destroyed (Photo: AFP)
Egyptian security sources feared an Israeli response that would draw Cairo into the Gaza conflict and therefore asked Islamic Jihad leaders to intervene and prevent attacks on Israel.
Senior Israeli officials told London's al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that the burgeoning ceasefire agreement has not been put on paper and consists of a series of verbal understandings between the Egyptians and the two sides - which will be implemented in three phases.
The first phase will last for 24 hours throughout which rocket-firing and attacks on the Gaza Strip will stop. The second phase of the initial negotiation pertains to political issues, including the opening of the border crossings. In the third phase, Egypt will complete the negotiations restoring calm.
According to the Israeli sources, the truce was scheduled to go into effect in the early morning hours.
The al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that the head of Turkish intelligence arrived in Egypt on Tuesday in order to participate in the meetings on the attainment of a ceasefire.
Ali Baraki, a senior Hamas
official, said that in the upcoming hours, intensive Egyptian efforts will continue in order to restore the lull with Israel. He also said that discussions are being held regarding the agreement's final details.
He associated the attacks on Gaza with possible Israeli attacks on nuclear facilities in Iran. "The Israelis think that Gaza is the weakest link and that it can send messages to Lebanon and Iran from the Strip in order to display its military capabilities, but the reality proved otherwise. Israel will think not 10 times, but rather one million times before it attacks Iran
Itamar Eichner contributed to the report