The al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine claimed Friday a bombing attack that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded two others in the Gaza Strip a day earlier, reported AFP.
A Jewish organization said that one soldier was killed and three other were injured, one of them seriously, when a bomb went off near the Sufa crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, according to the agency.
Hospital sources later reported a second death.
Palestinian security sources said the bomb exploded while an army team was inspecting another explosive device nearby. An Israeli military source said only that "a serious incident" occurred in the area, said AFP.
"Our heroic combatants detonated by remote control an explosive charge weighing 53 kilograms of explosive materials when seven of the Zionist force got out of their vehicles," said the statement faxed to AFP in Beirut on Friday, but dated December 28.
"All the members of the force were killed or wounded, and with the help of God, our heroic combatants succeeded in returning safely to base," it said.
Haaretz newspaper identified the two killed soldiers as Captain Gad Marsha, 30, Sergeant Major Yonatan Vromolin, 29.
Witnesses later told AFP that a gunfight erupted between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians near the Kfar Darom settlement in the central Gaza Strip, but there no reports of injuries.
Another 15 people were hurt when a homemade bomb ripped through a public bus in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv in what Prime Minister Ehud Barak branded a "cowardly" attack, said the agency.
The bombings followed the cancellation of a planned summit Thursday between Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Egypt, where they were due to discuss a US plan to revive peace negotiations and end three months of bloodshed.
"By carrying out an act of terrorism in Tel Aviv, (the attackers) wanted to prevent any chance of reaching a peace accord," said Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, the agency reported.
It was the third such bomb attack in Israel proper that caused deaths or injuries since the wave of violence erupted at the end of September.
More than 350 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in the wave of bloodletting that has swept the region since the Intifada erupted on September 28. Among the dead are 41 Israeli soldiers and civilians, including Jewish settlers.
In the Tel Aviv bombing, which occurred as bus number 51 was on a road heading north of the city, most of the injuries were light but two people suffered moderate to serious burns, medical officials said.
Barak called it "a cowardly attack against innocent civilians" but vowed that it would not deter Israel from pushing forward with peace efforts with the Palestinians.
"We will continue to seek the authors of these attacks and those who send them," Barak said in a statement. "Such attacks will not hinder our desire to put an end to the conflict" through negotiation.
In the past, Israel has accused Arafat's Palestinian Authority of giving a "green light" for attacks with its release in October of dozens of Islamic militants.
"If the Palestinian Authority wants, it could reduce these attacks ... but it continues to incite violence," said Barak's security adviser Danny Yatom.
Hamas said the bombing was a response to continued "Israeli aggressions," but an official stopped short of claiming responsibility.
"This is part of the Palestinian response to the ongoing Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian people. The Intifada (uprising) continues, and this is evidence that the Palestinian people are sticking to their rights," Ismail Abu Shanab, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.
Asked if Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, was responsible, Abu Shanab said: "No one has taken responsibility. It is not important who carried out this action, only that it is a son of the Palestinian people," said the agency.
On November 22, two Israelis were killed and around 55 more injured in a rush-hour car bomb explosion in the northern Israeli town of Hadera that was claimed by the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
And on November 2, another two Israelis died when a powerful car bomb exploded near a busy market in the heart of west Jerusalem in an attack claimed by the hard-line Islamic Jihad, the agency added.
Both groups, which have carried out dozens of anti-Israeli attacks since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, often strike at delicate moments in the peace process.
The last attack in Tel Aviv was in March 1997 when a suicide bombing at a sidewalk cafe killed three Israeli women and the Palestinian bomber and wounded 46 others -- (Several Sources)
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