Close to 10 passengers were wounded in a bus shooting and several minutes later a number of bombs went off on an army patrol traveling along the border with Egypt, Israeli media including the Army Radio and Channel 2 News reported on Thursday.
Ongoing crossfire between Israeli forces, "led by the Commander of the 80th Division, Brigadier General Tamir Yadi and the cell of terrorists is currently underway", the Israeli army said in a statement.
"Additional IDF and rescue forces are arriving at the scene," the statement said.
Number of local Israeli media reports stated mortar fire coming in from Egypt into Israel. Assailants reportedly then moved on to another spot and fired an anti-tank missile at another vehicle, severely injuring several passengers.
In the first attack, three gunmen driving a white car opened fire at a passenger bus, which departed Beer Sheva central bus station and was headed for Eilat, Israeli police spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera.
The bus was traveling through Netafim checkpoint located 12km north of Eilat on the Egyptian border when the attack occurred, lightly wounding five people, the police said.
The three gunmen in first bus attack had entered Israel from Egypt by crossing through the Netafim checkpoint, Army Radio reported without citing sources.
Hospital spokespersons said approximately 10 people - six "light" and four "medium" - were wounded in the first bus attack.
An Israeli female soldier who was on the bus told Israeli Army Radio that the bus halted when the car swerved in front, screams were heard, and gunshots were fired for half a minute.
Reports said most of the passengers on the bus were Israeli soldiers who are residents of Eilat and were on their way from their respective bases to go home for the weekend.
The second attack was on an Israeli military vehicle which steeped on a roadside bomb, incurring unknown number of injuries nor in what condition, the police said.
In the third attack, an anti-tank missile was launched on a private car, at a location approximately 20km north of the first shooting on the passenger bus, the police spokesperson said.
Five people were killed in the missile hit, an Israeli Ambulance service spokesperson confirmed to Al Jazeera English.
IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant – General Benny Gantz arrived at the Division a short while ago and is currently holding an initial situation assessment,
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, said the Israeli army is assessing the security situation along the border with Egypt and vowed to "hunt down" the perpetrators of Thursday's attack, according to Army Radio.
Barak holds Gazans responsible for Thursday's attacks, prompting military analysts to expect a harsh Israeli military reaction against the Gaza Strip, reports said.
Ahmad Yousef, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, denied the group's responsibility for the Eilat attacks, though Hamas "praises the attack since it attacked [Israeli] soldiers and came in the right time while Israel is attacking Gaza almost every day".
"Since the whole political process is frozen, military escalation is the logical development," Yousef replied to Barak's threat against Gaza.
Eilat is "a tactical choice for attacks because the resistance groups look for suitable places and times for their attacks," he told Al Jazeera, on why southern Israel may have been the target.
The Egyptian military had no information nor comment and is currently checking what had happened.
Ofir Gendelman, the prime minister's spokesperson, tweeted that "three of the terrorists involved in the attack were killed by special forces".
Brig-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli army spokesman, urged the public that "the command is in control of the situation and is enforcing order".
Mordechai also advised residents in the area to keep from traveling to surrounding areas at which attacks have been reported.
Al Jazeera English