You can obtain an "explosion" by accelerating enough of the surface layer of an object to overcome the resistance of the object itself. The object doesn't so much "explode" as it is smashed.
In the case of a soft body made of 70%-plus water, a.k.a. human victim, the effect ought to be impressive enough.
Also, depending on your magic system, you might end up with "shovers" - able to exert a large amount of force but not to focus on a small enough surface, still effective against a vessel's sails, say -, "punchers" and "needlers" - these last, fully capable of killing someone by either accelerating a rib fragment through their heart, or stunning/killing them through hydrostatic shock.
If the traction is exerted at the molecular level, and at the correct "frequency", it can force open the bonds in the oxygen molecule and have them react with carbon in most organic matter. It is still not an explosion, but more a sort of flash fire - a "ripping" after which the target object's surface is subject to a very hot fire. For many substances (e.g. dry wood), this also means that the rest of the object will go up in flames in very short order.
For comparison, there's something like this in Vernor Vinge's first novel, The Witling. Natives of the planet Giri have the power of limited teleport, but energy is mostly conserved. So they can kill someone by mixing up their brains, teleport air or pebbles from the other side of the planet to make them into rotational-velocity shrapnel, or large rocks from far out moons to release kiloton-equivalent strikes.
Possibly, exerting force on a leaden bullet and launching it at someone might achieve something similar to a firearm. Which also gets interesting if the magicless population discovers the equalizing power of black powder :-)