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2 Israeli Arabs Die in Blast Near Gaza During Elections


Two Israeli Bedouin Arabs were killed in an explosion near the Gaza Strip border Tuesday, as voting was under way in Israeli parliamentary elections that could lead to new borders with the Palestinians.

Israeli military officials say they are investigating if the blast near the agricultural community of Nahal Oz was caused by a new rocket fired from Gaza or a stray ordinance in the region.

The Islamic Jihad militant group said it fired the rocket to disrupt Israeli elections.

Meanwhile, in an article published Tuesday in a leading newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said if his Kadima party leads the next coalition government he plans to move quickly to dismantle small Jewish settlements and merge large blocs into Israel. Mr. Olmert says he will not leave any settlement on the other side of the West Bank separation barrier Israel is building.

Initial exit polls are expected shortly after voting closes at 10:00 p.m. local time .

Opinion surveys indicate the centrist Kadima is likely to win between 33 and 35 seats in the 120-member parliament, followed by the Labor party's 17 to 21 seats. The Likud party is projected to gain between 13 to 15 seats.

More than five million Israelis are eligible to cast ballots.

Polling was reported brisk in the first few hours of voting.

Thousands of police have been deployed outside some 8,200 polling stations across the country.

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