JERUSALEM -- Palestinian guerrillas swam from Jordan across the Gulf of Aqaba yesterday and killed a security guard near the Israeli resort of Eilat before one of them was killed in a gun battle with Israeli soldiers, officials said.
The army said that a second infiltrator had been wounded and captured in the shootout, and that two other Palestinians had drowned while trying to swim 3 1/2 miles from the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, the army chief of staff, said it was not clear what group had planned the attack, but he added that the infiltrators were "apparently Palestinians with a fundamentalist religious background."
He said that Jordan would be held accountable and that it needed to "make a supreme effort" to prevent such raids from being staged from its territory.
It was the third time last week that an Israeli civilian had been killed by a Palestinian, the other victims being a teen-age girl and a rabbi who had settled in the occupied Gaza Strip.
These episodes have created a combustible mixture of killings, election campaign politics and angry street protests by Israelis lashing out both at Arabs and at their government for supposedly not doing enough to protect them.
Violence and conflicting claims by the major parties about which one is the more reliable guardian of Israeli security have rapidly become dominant issues in the race for June 23 parliamentary elections.
Terrorist attacks are usually presumed to benefit the governing Likud Party, which is widely viewed as tougher in such matters than the opposition Labor Party.
But some political commentators say conventional wisdom may not hold this time.
They argue that a segment of the traditional Likud vote could turn in an anti-government protest to Labor or perhaps even to one of several small parties on the extreme right.
The raid yesterday near Eilat occurred on a beach that, despite its proximity to both the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, is usually far from the routine mayhem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to army officers, the terrorists swam for hours in the dark from Aqaba, aided by floating barrels and heavily armed with grenades and automatic rifles.
Two of them landed at Coral Beach, a few miles south of Eilat and the site of a Hebrew University marine observatory. There, they came across an armed security guard, Yosef Shirazi, 62, and killed him.
Army officers said they then moved along the beach toward Eilat, firing repeatedly at a diving school that they passed on the way.
In short order, the Israelis said, police officers arrived at the scene, followed by soldiers, who killed one guerrilla and wounded the other in a shootout.