Code: 748775 A

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on course for a record fifth term after partial results from Tuesday's parliamentary elections showed the veteran right-wing leader in front.

Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz both claimed victory in the election. But exit polls and early results, with 80 percent of the votes counted, showed Netanyahu's Likud with 38 seats, eight more than in the previous election in 2015, and Gantz's centrist Blue and White Party with 36, the Knesset website and Israeli TV channels said several hours after polls closed.

As ballot counting started earlier on Tuesday, early exit polls suggested the Likud party and Blue and White party were neck and neck.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gantz declared victory before Netanyahu followed suit as two Israeli TV stations changed their forecasts and projected a narrow victory for Netanyahu.

Addressing a jubilant gathering of supporters early on Wednesday, Netanyahu praised his supporters for an "almost inconceivable achievement".

"I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with even greater trust," said Netanyahu before vowing to establish a right-wing nationalist government.

Official results are expected to be announced early on Wednesday.

"We won! The Israeli public has had its say!" Gantz's Blue and White party said in a statement prior to Netanyahu's speech.

If Netanyahu wins, the 69-year-old will serve his fifth term in office, a record, and would become Israel's longest-serving prime minister in the summer.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz Israel elections
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