The incident, which is not being investigated as terrorism, occurred at around 5pm on Monday and was captured in amateur video footage and posted on social media (see below).
At least one person was injured when the gunmen, all dressed in black, pulled up in three vehicles near a cultural centre in the Busserine district and began shooting into the air.
The injured man was reportedly hit with the butt of a rifle.
?? Marseille : Sur cette vidéo amateur, on aperçoit les malfaiteurs armés dans le quartier de la Busserine, cherchant autour d'eux et faisant feu en l'air à plusieurs reprises. https://t.co/bateIxRSxF pic.twitter.com/IYy7uhjiqG
— Actu17 (@Actu17) May 21, 2018
Reports in the French press say the armed gang appeared to be hunting for someone in particular. Images show them pointing their guns at several locals before they sped off.
Local prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said the gunmen were involved in a brief exchange of gunfire with police who were called to the scene. No officers were injured.
“According to a witness, one person was abducted in a car whose occupants shot in the air several times,” Tarabeux told local media. An investigation has been launched.
The Busserine area is in the Marseille's notorious 14th district which has been plagued by gun violence carried out by drug gangs.
Six people have been killed in shooting related to drugs turf wars since the beginning of the year.
French senator Samia Ghali said: “This has become everyday life for the people in these neighbourhoods.”
“What's worrying is that children, who are still at an age of innocence are confronted by scenes that you would only find in films forbidden for under-18s.”
On Tuesday police found two burned out vehicles not far from the scene of Monday's shooting. Although it was not clear whether two burned out cars were those used by the gunmen.