Looming poll ... Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, visits Ashdod, near the Gaza border, last week. Photo: AFP
Even before Israel launched the missile strike that killed the leader of Hamas's military wing overnight, local media observed that senior government ministers appeared to be making an unseemly dash towards the cameras in the country's south.
Mr Netanyahu's colleagues called for renewed targeted killings in Gaza and advocated cutting off water and electricity to the strip's 1.6 million residents.
The Knesset elections, scheduled for January 22, along with the determination of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to push for enhanced status at the United Nations later this month in the face of a furious campaign by Israel, had somehow put its leaders on the back foot.
So when Gaza militants escalated their rocket fire on southern Israel in response to a series of targeted attacks by Israel that killed seven Palestinians, including five civilians, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised not to sit idly by.
Now Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari and his deputy, as well as eight civilians – including two children – are dead and Hamas is threatening retaliation, leaving two civilian populations, one in Gaza and the other in southern Israel, caught in the middle.
"It is impossible to prove that there is a connection between the decisions that the government will make to deal with the rocket fire endangering approximately one million Israelis and the upcoming Knesset election," wrote Shimon Shiffer in the mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
"But there is definitely a link between the prime minister and ministers' mad dash towards the cameras and microphones in the southern communities and the fact that in 69 days we will be going to the polling stations." Mr Netanyahu's colleagues called for renewed targeted killings in Gaza and advocated cutting off water and electricity to the strip's 1.6 million residents.
The Labor Party chairwoman, Shelly Yachimovich, cautioned earlier in the week that the time was not right for a large operation in the Gaza Strip.
"We are on the eve of elections, and an operation that goes beyond an air strike or a pinpointed strike against the dispatchers of the terrorists requires some kind of stability on our side and a national consensus. Such an operation may be necessary, but not now," she told Army Radio.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood accused Israel's leaders of turning up the heat on the conflict with Gaza to score political points ahead of the election.
The statement from the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, referred to Israel as a "racist state" and said it was "in the framework of elections that Israel is witnessing a recent military escalation against occupied Gaza and the occupied Golan Heights".
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but controls its airspace, coastline and most land border crossings.
Its last major incursion into Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – ran for three weeks from December 2008 to January 2009, killing 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.