JERUSALEM, AP – Two Israelis were killed in an explosion in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip border on Tuesday, casting a pall over nationwide elections.
Islamic Jihad, a violent Palestinian militant group, claimed responsibility.
Israeli military officials said the explosion was caused either by a Palestinian rocket attack or stray ordnance along the border area with the Gaza Strip.
Medical officials said an adult and child — apparently Arab shepherds — were killed in the blast, which occurred near the agricultural community of Nahal Oz.
In Gaza, Islamic Jihad said it had timed the attack to disrupt the Israeli election.
“We send a message to the Zionist entity that the blood of Palestinian people will not be at the expense of your elections,” said Abu Abdullah, a spokesman for the group. Islamic Jihad’s top rocket maker was killed in an explosion this month, though Israel denied involvement.
In past elections, Palestinian violence has driven voters toward hard-line parties, and Tuesday’s attack could affect voting as well.
Hawkish parties have criticized front-runner acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to withdraw unilaterally from much of the West Bank, saying it would invite Palestinian violence. Olmert’s opponents have pointed to the frequent rocket attacks that have continued out of Gaza since Israel withdrew from the area last summer.
The army said a total of four rockets were fired into Israel on Tuesday.