Television footage from the crash scene
Television footage from the scene where a train hit a packed minibus in southern Israel, August 5, 2010 Photo by Channel 2
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Seven people were killed in southern Israel on Thursday as a train hit a minibus near the town of Kiryat Gat.

Two children, aged six and four, and a pregnant woman were among the dead, according to television news reports.

It is unclear how many others were injured in the crash, which happened as the packed vehicle was hit by a northbound train, according to initial reports.

A passenger train hit the minibus as it attempted to pass over a crossing on road 353 at 7:05PM. The crossing point had been equipped with a lookout point after a similar accident a year ago but it appears that no guard was posted there at the time.

Chief executive of Israel Railways Itzhak Harel told reporters that the train driver braked but was unable to stop in time. The train would have been traveling at around 130km per hour, requiring a stopping distance of 700 meters, he said.

Weiss said he had started to brake about 400 meters from the minibus.

Large teams of Magen David Adom paramedics, as well as rescue helicopters, evacuated the injured minibus passenger to hospitals in the southern cities of Be'er Shava and Ashkelon.

Police Commander in Chief Dudi Cohen was also on his way to the crash site, police said

None of the passengers aboard the train was badly hurt, although several were treated for shock.

Following the accident, all train services between Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva were suspended.