The IDF has asked the public to avoid the Eilat area for the time being and to allow security and rescue personnel to conduct operations.
The entrances to the city of Eilat have been sealed off and security forces have thrown a dragnet around the area as they search for terrorists involved in the multi-site attack that ended the lives of at least seven Israelis - 2 women and 5 men - on Thursday and wounded 29 others.
In addition, checkpoints have been set up outside the entrances to the city of Be'er Sheva, home to Soroka Medical Center, a Level One trauma center where seven of the most grievously wounded victims were flown by Yasour helicopters for advanced treatment Thursday afternoon after being initially stabilized at Eilat's smaller Yoseftal Medical Center. Be'er Sheva is considered by many to be the "capital" of Israel's vast southern region, comprising almost 60 percent of the country's geography.
IDF forces led by the Commander of the 80th Division, Brigadier General Tamir Yadi are engaged in a firefight with at least one terrorist cell outside Eilat, according to military sources. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has arrived at the division, together with additional military and rescue personnel.
Seven people were wounded and one person died in the first attack, at about 12:00 noon. About a half hour later, a second attack was launched against another Egged bus with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), wounding more than a dozen others. A third attack forty minutes later took the lives of five Israelis when a military vehicle ran over a bomb planted on the road. That attack was followed by the current gun battle between IDF soldiers and terrorists.
IDF sources report that at seven terrorists have been killed, with two others critically wounded, but believe two of the bodies may be rigged with explosives.
Home Front Command officials meanwhile announced they have taken the country to its highest alert status and remind Israelis to be especially alert for suspicious, unattended or abandoned packages.
Magen David Adom has also called on the public to donate blood in local MDA stations across the country in order to help sustain the supply needed to help treat those wounded in the attacks.