10 hurt, 'several dead' in attacks on southern Israel, missile fired from Egypt according to unconfirmed report

AFP , Thursday 18 Aug 2011

An Israeli bus is attacked in Eilat, injuring 10 people while deaths remain unconfirmed, as a second incident of a bomb attack in Beersheba has been denied

An injured man is carried on a bed by hospital staff at Soroka hospital in Beersheba, Israel, Thursday, (AP).

At least 10 people were hurt when gunmen attacked two buses on a road near the Egyptian border in southern Israel, sparking a heavy gun battle with security forces and reports of several deaths.

Israel's Channel 10 television said there were "several dead" in the attacks, but it was not immediately clear how many people were killed or if the attackers were among them.

There were also unconfirmed reports on Israel's main television stations that an anti-tank missile was fired across the border from Egypt.

Security sources said the first attack saw an unknown number of gunmen in a car open fire on a bus which was travelling to the southern Red Sea resort town of Eilat, injuring five people, most of them lightly.

The gunmen fled and shortly afterwards, Israeli television and radio stations reported a second attack on another bus further up the same road, with medics saying another five people had been hurt.

Shortly afterwards, Israeli media reported that troops were engaged in a gun battle with the suspected perpetrators of the two attacks at a location near the border.

Kobi Arad, a doctor at Eilat's Yoseftal hospital said 10 people had been injured in the two attacks, one of them seriously and nine who were only lightly wounded.

Security sources initially said the gunfire appeared to come from the Egyptian side of the border, which runs parallel to route 12 for several dozen kilometres.

Army spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch told AFP there was one shooting attack against a bus, while a second bus had been hit by a roadside bomb.

"We are talking about two events: the first one is a bus that was heading from Shizafon to Eilat," she said, referring to a location some 20 km (12 miles) north of Eilat.

"Heavy fire was opened towards the bus. We know there are wounded in various manners from the bus," she said.

"The second event, which was not far away, was another bus. There was an IED which was activated towards the bus and there were injuries as well in that bus," she said, referring to a roadside bomb.

"There is still an ongoing exchange of fire between our forces and a terrorist squad," she said, describing the two incidents as "a combined attack in a very specific area approximately 20 km north of Eilat."

Israel's Channel 2 television showed footage of the first bus standing on a desert road with bullet holes in the windscreen, and several windows shot out.

Several ambulances and tens of soldiers could be seen milling around as two military helicopters were dispatched to help the search for the attackers.

Security officials had no immediate information about the identity of the attackers, although there was some speculation they may have infiltrated from Egypt.

The series of attacks came just days after Egyptian forces launched a wide-ranging operation in the northern Sinai to clamp down on militant activity there which has spiralled since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

More than 1,000 Egyptian troops and soldiers are participating in Operation Eagle whose aim is to restore order in a lawless section in the north of the Sinai peninsula.

A second attack was also reported to have taken place in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba but the Israel Radio retracted its report of the incident.  

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