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8 dead, dozens injured in south Israel attacks

Aug. 18, 2011 11:29 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 1:37 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- At least eight Israeli citizens have been killed and dozens injured in two shooting attacks on buses near the city of Eilat, officials said Thursday.

Three militants armed with Kalashnikovs opened fire on a bus traveling from Beersheba to Eilat causing multiple injuries, Israel's Channel 10 television reported.

Reports suggest that armed men opened fire from a car following the bus, which was traveling about 30 kilometers north of Eilat near Netafim in Israel's south.

The Israeli army said five soldiers were among a total of nine people injured.

"This morning’s incident, near the southern Israeli city of Netafim, left four soldiers moderately injured and one soldier lightly injured," a statement from the military said.

"Several people were injured as a result of an explosive device, detonated on an IDF force that arrived at the scene and drove over it," the statement said.

Later, the military identified one of the soldiers as Moshe Naftali, 22, from Ofra.

"Naftali was killed as a result of a terrorist attack on his force while en-route to assist a civilian bus that was fired upon by terrorists," the army said in a statement.

"Crossfire ensued between the force and the cell of terrorists."

Assailants also attacked a second bus and a car soon after, an Al-Arabiya correspondent reported. Five people were killed, including one in the first bus attack, the correspondent said.

Israeli security officials said at least eight people were killed in all the attacks.

In a third incident, mortars were reportedly fired at Israeli forces near the southern border causing injuries, although initial reports were ambiguous about the origin of the artillery.

The Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, quoting foreign sources, reported that Jordan had delivered a warning based on intelligence that such an attack was likely.

An Egyptian official, meanwhile, denied that the attack originated in the Sinai.

Meanwhile, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said that "this terror attack originated from Gaza. We will exhaust all measures against the terrorists," Israel's Ynet news site reported.

Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil rejected Barak's accusations and warned that Israel was preparing to attack Gaza during Ramadan, adding that resistance would be swift if this occurred.

In an interview with Ma'an radio, Bardawil accused Israel of blaming Hamas and Gaza groups in order to deflect attention from its domestic economic crisis and security failures.

Security forces are still investigating the nature of the incidents and latest reports from Israeli radio suggest three of the attackers have been killed by Israeli forces, with the clashes now over.

A search is currently underway in Eilat to locate other suspects in the attack, as the police presence across Israel intensifies.

Twenty-five people have been taken to Eilat hospital, Arabic media reported, and emergency services were immediately deployed to the scene of the attacks.

The identity of the attackers is unknown.
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