GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in military strikes yesterday in the Gaza Strip, including two teenage boys hit in a botched missile attack on Islamic militants.

In the north, two Palestinian infiltrators killed an Israeli in a village next to the West Bank, as both rhetoric and violence intensified in the approach to Israel’s Jan. 28 election.

Palestinians charged that Israel was increasing attacks to distract voters from election-related scandals, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is an “obstacle to peace” and must “exit the political stage.”

Also, in a rare incident of violence on the Israel-Egypt border, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two infiltrators in the desert south of the Gaza Strip, the military said. One soldier was wounded.

Hours earlier, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at two vehicles between the refugee camps Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said, aiming for fugitives from the Islamic militant group Hamas. Instead, the explosions killed two teenage boys walking nearby.

Hospital officials identified the dead as Abdallah Najar and Mohammed Karaweh. Another teenager was seriously wounded, they said.

There were conflicting reports about their ages. Hospital officials said the victims were 15 and 16, an uncle said Najar was 18 and a U.N. agency refugee agency said he was 19.

Mahmoud Abu Tahar, a gas station owner, said the missiles were fired toward a taxi and a car when three youngsters were nearby, two on bikes and one walking. “I saw two people dead and another lying nearby in a pool of blood,” Abu Tahar said.

After two Palestinian suicide bombers killed 22 bystanders in Tel Aviv last Sunday, Israel stepped up its offensive against Palestinian militants, including what it calls “targeted killings” of suspects, a practice Palestinians denounce as assassination of their leaders and human rights groups criticize as execution without trial.

The military had no immediate comment about the botched raid.

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