TAIF, SAUDI ARABIA, OCT. 4 -- Kuwait's underground resistance movement, which has harassed Iraq's occupation army with car-bomb and sniper attacks, is giving up much of its armed struggle after a wave of executions by Iraqi forces that has left up to several hundred civilians dead on the streets of the Kuwaiti capital, according to Western and Kuwaiti officials.

"We have moved away from human targets," said Sheik Salem Sabah, Kuwait's minister of interior and nominal head of the resistance movement, in an interview.

The minister said some attacks would continue against what he described as Iraqi military targets. Another senior resistance official said such targets would be carefully selected Iraqi military facilities outside Kuwait's capital city, where most of the population lives, to spare civilians from retribution.

"It is safe to say they have gone to a new stage of resistance," said one Western official who keeps in close contact with Kuwait's exiled government here. "It was getting to the point where children were being shot in front of their parents," the official added.

Instead of sniping at Iraqi troops, the resistance forces will concentrate on a campaign of passive resistance, disobedience to occupation authorities, intelligence gathering and the protection of thousands of American, British and other foreign nationals still hiding in the country, Western and Kuwaiti officials said.

Kuwaiti officials said they hope this strategy will cut down on the suffering of Kuwaitis living under brutal occupation conditions.

"The Kuwaiti resistance is not dead, it is just changing tactics," said Yahya F. Sumait, Kuwait's state minister for housing.

"There is a concern," said one Western official, "about provoking the Iraqis too far" with daily sniper attacks that have prompted massive Iraqi sweeps through sealed-off neighborhoods, house-to-house searches and summary executions of male family members found to be hiding any kind of weapon.

An Amnesty International report issued Wednesday in London, based on interviews with people who recently fled Kuwait, described "a horrifying picture of widespread arrests, torture under interrogation and mass extrajudicial killings." Iraqi officials denounced the Amnesty report today, and news organizations have been unable to enter Kuwait to verify such charges.

The Kuwaitis "are not in a position to do much to defend themselves from the crackdowns," the Western official said, adding that Kuwait's exiled leaders are deeply concerned about Iraqi brutality breaking the morale of the population. Most Kuwaitis have refused to go to work as long as the Iraqi occupation continues.

Sabah said in the interview that the exiled government "today got news that they {Iraqi troops} killed two of our finest doctors for resisting the taking of large quantities of drugs from one of our hospitals to Iraq."

{In Washington, Kuwaiti Minister of Planning Sulaiman A. Mutawa said the Kuwaiti resistance had been "extremely enthusiastic" but had difficulty conducting sustained military operations. "Every time {an Iraqi} soldier was killed, hell was let loose on residential areas" in Kuwait, Mutawa said. "The Iraqis were really ruthless."}

The resistance brought other dangers to civilians, as Kuwaiti refugees fleeing into Saudi Arabia boasted of resistance activity in a number of the capital's neighborhoods. "The Kuwaitis are desperately worried that the naming of places in the news media was leading within hours to massive house-to-house searches in those neighborhoods," a Western diplomat said.

The danger from those searches is not only in discovering firearms, but in discovering Americans and other foreigners still in hiding in many homes.

The outside leadership of the resistance, headed by the interior minister, is in contact with Kuwaitis inside the country, but communications remain a problem. "They call us -- we don't call them," one official said.

A number of officials said they believe it unlikely that all armed resistance will stop, since some resistance cells appear to be operating independent of the exile government's control or guidance.

"I doubt that it will stop completely," said a Western diplomat. "You are going to have pot shots from young people who have lost friends and relatives. . . . But the feeling now is that it is more important to hunker down and survive -- try to keep morale up rather than go out and shoot at Iraqi soldiers."

The Kuwaiti resistance has never been a major factor in the international attempt to roll back Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion. Western intelligence officials have described its attacks as random and of thorn-in-the-side effectiveness. But the notion of the resistance was a morale booster for the 300,000 Kuwaitis who were outside the country when the attack occurred or who fled afterward.

The government in exile hired a public relations firm to spread the word of the resistance, and secondhand reports of its activities have drawn wide public interest, even in Baghdad. A number of news organizations have asked the Kuwaiti government to allow their reporters and photographers to sneak into Kuwait to document resistance activities.

"The people inside {Kuwait} began screaming, 'Please forget about the Kuwaiti resistance,' " said one Kuwaiti official, because the Iraqis were carefully monitoring every report and in some cases acting swiftly on the information.

"There was a message behind the resistance, and I think we accomplished it," said Sumait, the housing minister. The message of resistance helped to undermine the Iraqi claim that its army invaded Kuwait to assist the uprising of Kuwaitis against their own government, he said. "People now know that's not correct."

At its peak, U.S. military officials said, the Kuwaiti resistance was responsible for 25 Iraqi casualties a day. Western officials in Saudi Arabia could not say what the figure is now, but most believe it has diminished. At the same time, however, the number of Kuwaitis being killed in the crackdowns has increased.

"Most of the bodies received at the hospital are shots in the head," said Sumait. "Our people are dying every day -- today, we received a new batch of names."

At today's cabinet meeting, Sumait said, the government decided to press its campaign in the United Nations and with the Red Cross and human-rights groups to demand access to Kuwait so that an accurate accounting of atrocities can be made.