JERUSALEM, FEB. 1 -- Two Palestinians were shot to death by Israelis today and at least eight others wounded as a new round of civil unrest gained momentum in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

They were the first confirmed shooting deaths here since Jan. 15 and brought the death toll from eight weeks of Arab rioting and Israeli crackdowns to 38 by Israel's official count and at least 40 according to statistics compiled by United Nations workers in the territories.

The shootings appeared to mark a return to the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces, who in recent weeks have eschewed the use of bullets and instead have attacked alleged rioters with clubs and iron pipes, a tactic that has drawn international criticism.

The most serious shooting incident today came near an elementary school in the village of Anabta on the Nablus-Tulkarm road. Dozens of stone-throwing Palestinians attacked a bus filled with soldiers, two cars carrying Jewish settlers and a police car after the vehicles were halted by a barricade of boulders and debris. The soldiers and settlers emerged from their vehicles, and someone opened fire, killing two persons and wounding one other.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said today that there had been no change in tactics, but warned that the violence could continue for months and said the issue had now come down to a struggle of will. "We have sufficient strength not to get tired first," he told reporters outside the Israeli parliament, or Knesset.

The new violence started Friday with stone-throwing demonstrations in several areas but exploded Saturday and yesterday with several shooting incidents. At least 20 Palestinians have been wounded since Friday, and a Jewish settler whose car was firebombed last night in the West Bank town of Bireh remains in critical condition in a Jerusalem hospital.

Today's unrest was widespread throughout the West Bank region from Jenin in the north, through the central communities of Ramallah and Arab East Jerusalem all the way south to Hebron, which has been largely quiet until now.

Cities, villages and refugee camps were all involved, and roads throughout the region were cluttered with debris from burning, rocks and bottles.

Unlike the early days of the strife that began in Gaza Dec. 9, the new unrest appears to have a degree of organization behind it. Trouble erupted after a "national leadership committee," in leaflets distributed last Thursday, called for mass demonstrations Saturday against the military occupation.

Several Palestinian movements that normally have trouble agreeing on and coordinating their activities -- including the mainstream Fatah wing of the outlawed Palestine Liberation Organization and the Islamic Jihad, a movement of Moslem fundamentalists -- have reportedly joined forces under the banner of the secret committee.

Some Palestinian leaders believe the initiation of new peace moves by the United States and Egypt has contributed to the new round of violence.

"Less than two months of rock throwing accomplished more than the Arab world with all its military might was able to do in 20 years, and everyone knows this," Maher Abu Khater, an editor of the East Jerusalem daily Al Fajr, told Reuter.

"The mood in the streets is that if two months of protest gets America to pressure {Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak} Shamir for Palestinian self-rule, then four months will bring a U.N. force and a year will see Israel pulling out in disgust as it did from Lebanon."

Public schools were due to reopen in the West Bank this morning after winter holidays, and the Army had hoped the return to school would mean a lessening of the violence. But many schools remained closed, and many teachers reportedly sent their students home, saying they would refuse to teach under present conditions.

The worst violence in recent days has occurred in the northern city of Nablus, a center of PLO support. For two days masked youths throwing stones and bottles and erecting barricades of burning tires and other debris held off the Army in downtown Nablus, turning the central market area into a "no-go" zone.

Early this morning, while the youths slept, the Army counterattacked, conducting massive raids of homes in the area and arresting at least 20 persons.

A military curfew was enforced today in Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp, and the streets were largely deserted.

Instead, the unrest spread to smaller villages outside the city and led to today's incident in which two persons were killed.

Hospital officials in Tulkarm described the two dead as males, ages 21 and 17. An Army spokesman who described the incident said it remained unclear tonight whether the fatal shots were fired by a soldier or by a civilian.

An Army patrol later arrived at the scene and soldiers opened fire to disperse the mob, wounding two more Palestinians in the legs.

The spokesman said three Palestinians also were wounded when soldiers opened fire in the northern town of Jenin and that two others were wounded by gunshots during protests at the nearby village of B'nai Naim. Three soldiers also were hit by stones in the West Bank today.

A total of seven refugee camps and two towns were under military curfew for all or part of the day. There were also isolated incidents of rioting in various parts of Arab East Jerusalem.

Israeli television tonight showed footage from the village of Beta, scene of stone-throwing clashes throughout the morning, showing soldiers opening fire directly at demonstrators. There were no reports of casualties.

The Gaza Strip, where the influence of various Islamic fundamentalist movements appears to outstrip that of the PLO, has remained relatively quiet in recent days. But many Gazans stayed home from their jobs in Israel because buses refused to run following the firebombing of three buses yesterday.

A commercial strike continued in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, and the Bureij refugee camp was placed under military curfew after demonstrations there that were broken up with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The Jewish settler injured last night in the firebombing was the first to be critically injured since the violence began. Representatives of the settlement councils warned Defense Minister Rabin today that if such attacks continued, their ability to maintain quiet among the 60,000 Jews living in the West Bank would be undermined.