JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian gunmen attacked an Israeli bus traveling near Eilat — the first in a series of attacks that reportedly have left seven Israelis dead.
Palestinian infiltrators from Gaza struck the Egged bus just after noon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Two other attacks — roadside bombs detonated as a vehicle drove past and another on Israeli troops — occurred in the same area shortly after, according to Lt.-Col Avital Leibovitch, the IDF's chief spokesman for the foreign press.
Israeli media are reporting that there are at least seven Israeli fatalities in the attacks, and that Israeli soldiers have killed three of the terrorists. The IDF has not confirmed the fatalities.
Crossfire between IDF forces and a cell of seven terrorists continued three hours after the initial attack, and some injuries have been reported, according to the IDF.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the attacks “demonstrate the weakening of Egypt's control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there.” He added that Israel's military will retaliate against the attacks, which he said “originate in Gaza.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz arrived at the scene to conduct an assessment, according to the IDF.
Egyptian officials have denied that Egypt was involved in the attacks, according to reports.