GAZA, DEC. 17 -- Israeli soldiers fanned out in jeeps and trucks across this densely populated Palestinian area today as an uneasy calm settled over the charred roads and ramshackle refugee camps where Israeli troops and young Palestinian demonstrators have clashed during the past week.

A 21-year-old man became the 14th Palestinian killed by soldiers in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank since the disturbances began. According to Palestinian sources, he was shot yesterday after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Rafah, a Gaza Strip city near the border with Egypt.

The recovery wards at Shifa Hospital were packed with bandaged Palestinian youths, each telling his story to family and bedside supporters in an atmosphere charged with hostility toward the Israeli soldiers who had fired on and beaten demonstrators.

None of the Palestinians interviewed acknowledged throwing rocks or provoking the soldiers.

Others admitted their "popular uprising," which they said pitted stones thrown by Palestinian youths against the guns and tear gas of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Outside the hospital, as the last light of day faded over the Mediterranean sky, youths, their faces wrapped in scarves, gathered around burning tires to curse and plot against the Israeli garrison a block away.

The roads ringing the 28-mile Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip were dotted with stationary and mobile Israeli machine-gun emplacements and an Israeli reconnaissance plane flew overhead.

At a military checkpoint near the entrance to the Gaza Strip, a young Israeli soldier voiced his regret at what has happened here over the past eight days.

"I hate this situation," he said, "and believe me it is not easy to support the Army at times." The soldier, a Druze from a village near Haifa, lamented the clashes between rock-throwing youths and Israeli patrols.

"The {Palestinian} people have been living like this for 20 years and all you can say is it is a time bomb that is going off."

The Israeli government has reiterated its determination to put down the uprisings here and in the West Bank, while U.S., Soviet and western governments have called on Israel to exercise more restraint in the use of live ammunition to control demonstrators.

This week of bloodshed, which erupted with a surprisingly broad scope in the camps and towns of Gaza, has prompted Israeli and Palestinian officials to search for an explanation for its timing and intensity.

"The children here are no longer afraid of guns," suggested one Palestinian lawyer.

"From the time children open their eyes here, they see killing or hear about killing. So the idea of death becomes a natural thing -- like going to Paris," said another Palestinian activist who was visiting wounded youths at Shifa Hospital.

A loose network of Palestinian youths is visible on the streets of Gaza. In a confined area where families are intertwined by birthplace and marriage, coordination on the street against Israeli garrison forces has become a natural phenomenon, according to some western residents.

Palestinian family elders appear to have lost control over Gaza's young people as job and professional opportunities have withered over time. Rebellion against the Israeli occupation authority has also become a revolt against parental authority, one prominent Gazan said in an interview.

"The children are tough," said the Israeli soldier, "and this makes it more difficult for the Army. The Palestinians have 10 or 12 children; what else is there for them to do but demonstrate?"

Adding a note of personal frustration, the soldier said, "but what can I do, I can't change it in the month before I am off duty."

The Gaza Strip is densely populated, with 650,000 people living in 100 square miles under occupation since Israel overran the area during the 1967 war. Another 5,000 Palestinians who once lived in Gaza remain trapped across the Egyptian border in Canada Camp, where they were left after the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.

The most obvious contributing factor to the breakout of hostilities here was a highway accident that occurred Dec. 8 when an Israeli tractor-trailer turned in front of oncoming traffic while entering a gas station, setting off a collision with several cars carrying Palestinians home from work in Israel.

Four Palestinian youths were killed and 17 were severely injured, according to Palestinian medical authorities.

Spontaneous protests in Gaza's Jabaliya and Nusseirat refugee camps were met with a forceful Israeli reaction.

Palestinian medical sources accused the Israeli Army of firing dum-dum bullets, designed to hit a target and then explode to cause maximum tissue damage.

A hospital official said Shifa, one of three hospitals in the Gaza Strip, admitted 145 wounded Palestinians in the last eight days. Ten died of their wounds, two youths were paralyzed from spinal cord wounds and two lost eyes.

Israeli military officials entered the hospital earlier this week and arrested 50 relatives of patients, one hospital official said.