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Israel seals off occupied territories

Amid a rapidly accelerating cycle of violence, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens on Tuesday barred Palestinians in the occupied territories from traveling to Israel. Israeli television said the orders would remain in effect for "several days" until tensions are reduced.

The Israeli military command said the 1.7-million Palestinian residents of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip would be barred from entering Israel as of this morning. Those who frequently stay in Israel were ordered to return home.

In other developments Tuesday, four Israelis, including two female soldiers, were attacked by Palestinians, one of whom subsequently was beaten by enraged Israelis and hospitalized. The violence appeared to have been inspired in part by the attack Sunday in which a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death in Jerusalem.

Later Tuesday, Israeli civilians fired on an Arab car in the Negev Desert, killing one Palestinian laborer and wounding three other passengers.

Officials had warned that they expected the number of attacks by Arabs to increase and said they were expecting that Israeli civilians would carry out more attacks of their own.

At least part of the Palestinian leadership is encouraging Palestinians to increase the violence. Hamas, the underground Moslem fundamentalist group, distributed a new leaflet praising Sunday's attack in Jerusalem.

Soldiers for a second day barred Palestinians from entering Jerusalem and maintained roadblocks for checking the identities of Palestinians entering other parts of Israel.

The Palestinians attacked in the Negev were returning home from work in Israel when they came under fire in the area of Mivtahim, near the Gaza border, according to Palestinian journalists.

In an earlier Gaza-area incident Tuesday, in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip struck two men with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Police said they arrested the Palestinian, who was reported to have said that he attacked the men to avenge the shooting of a friend by soldiers in Gaza.

In the second attack by Arabs, two unarmed female soldiers were struck as they waited at a military hitchhiking station on a highway connecting Haifa and Nazareth, in northern Israel. According to state radio, a Palestinian drove a truck to the hitchhiking station, jumped out and stabbed them.

A second Israeli was quoted as saying that he and the Palestinian exchanged blows.

According to a police statement, officers brought the Palestinian to a police station for questioning, then took him under guard to a hospital in the town of Afula.