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Coordinated Attacks Target Southern Israel

Israeli soldiers and a policeman patrol near the scene where gunmen launched several attacks, ambushing a bus and cars, north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, August 18, 2011

At least six people have been killed and 25 wounded in what appears to have been coordinated attacks in southern Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has blamed terrorists originating from the Gaza Strip, but Hamas authorities in Gaza deny the charge.

The Israeli military says most of the deaths occurred when attackers fired on a private car traveling near the Red Sea city of Eilat.

Officials say the attacks began at midday Thursday when unidentified gunmen fired on a bus traveling from the town of Beersheba to Eilat, a popular sea resort. A private car traveling near the bus also was hit by gunfire. The car's driver, Ahron Gorden, described the incident on Israeli radio.

He said he was traveling on the highway along Israel's border with Egypt. He was approaching an Israeli army checkpoint when he saw what he said looked like an Egyptian soldier lying on the ground. He said he thought the soldier was praying, but then the man started shooting, destroying the windows of his car and frightening his children.

A Israeli military vehicle also was hit by an explosive device. Israeli Special Forces were immediately deployed and security forces closed roads around Eilat.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement calling the attacks a grave terrorist incident and said his forces would react with all their strength and determination.

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