Israel bombs Gaza following attacks in south, rockets fall in Israeli towns

Eight Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed on Thursday and several scores were injured in a series of incidents in the south of Israel, several Palestinians were killed from IDF bombing in the Gaza Strip. Seven of the attackers were also killed after firefights. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said attacks “originated” in Gaza via Sinai, and Israel will respond with full force. J14 weekend rallies cancelled, “silent march” to be held instead.

The spate of attacks began at noon Israeli time, when a group of gunmen ambushed a public transport bus carrying passengers from Beer Sheva to the southern resort of Eilat, spraying it with automatic fire and wounding ten. The gunmen then drove off, and soon after another civilian bus and a private vehicle were attacked with gunfire and at least one anti-tank missile, killing four civilians. Another Israeli man was killed when his vehicle was attacked; his wife survived. Israeli media reported in the afternoon the same group carried out both attacks, some 30 kilometres apart. It was reported off-duty soldiers traveling in at least one of the buses returned fire at the gunmen, either killing them or driving them off.

This post was updated. Last update on Friday, 2.15 PM local.

Around the same time, an IDF patrol on the Israel-Egypt border was targeted by a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mortar fire. At least one soldier was killed and several more were wounded. There were also reports of an explosion on the Gaza-Egypt border.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said after an emergency meeting with the IDF top brass the attacks “originated” in Gaza. He said this action “must carry a price tag”, and that the IDF will prepare in the coming hours to respond “with full force.” At least seven of the attackers were killed, the army said, but it was unclear how many more remained at large. reports in Israeli media claimed that at least 15 gunmen were involved in the attacks on civilian and IDF vehicles.

Although it is thought the attackers have crossed into Israel from Sinai, and despite Barak’s assertion, no Palestinian or international organisation claimed responsibility for the assault so far (Thursday, 4pm Israeli time). Ma’ariv reported a warning was received from Jordan of an imminent attack just minutes before the first incident took place.

17:15: In a move initiated by the National Union of Students, the J14 social justice rallies scheduled for the weekend were called off. The NUS said this was done in solidarity with the victims and their families.

20:00 Israel Air Force bombed Gaza two hours ago, killing at least 6 people, including alleged members of the Popular Resistance Committees. The PRC is currently blamed by Israel for the attacks. Hamas denied responsibility or involvement in the attacks. An hour ago, another skirmish took place between Israeli soldiers and a militant group near the Gaza border, leaving one Israeli soldier critically wounded dead.

Friday noon: Throughout the night and the morning rockets have been fired from Gaza to Israeli towns. At least two people were injured in Ashdod.

Friday, 2pm: Palestinians are reporting 7 dead in Gaza, including a 13 years-old boy. There is also a report on a 2 years-old baby killed.