JERUSALEM, OCT. 23 -- Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens announced tonight that Palestinians in the occupied territories will be banned from Israel for an indefinite period in an effort to halt a wave of violence that accelerated today when four Israeli Jews were wounded by Palestinians and an Arab was shot to death by Israelis.
In the third consecutive day of violent attacks by Palestinians, two Israeli army women were stabbed and wounded by a Palestinian man this morning near Haifa, and two Israelis were injured by an Arab with a hammer at a construction site in Ashkelon, in the south. Tonight, a Palestinian driver was reported shot to death by Israeli civilians on a road near Beersheva, also in the south. Two Palestinians riding in his car -- which was returning from Israel, where the men worked, to Rafah, in the Gaza Strip -- were wounded, Israeli radio said.
A military spokesman said Arens decided to bar the 1.7 million West Bank and Gaza Palestinians from entering Israel as a way of heading off more violence. He said the duration of the ban had not been decided. About 100,000 Palestinians normally commute daily to jobs in Israel, and workers have been involved in three of the recent assaults.
Jerusalem already had been sealed from the territories for the last two days, following the killing Sunday of three Israelis in a West Jerusalem neighborhood by a knife-wielding construction worker. The closure of all the occupied territories is a much more sweeping measure that in the past has been reserved for exceptional occasions, such as the annual Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reacted to the violence late today by saying that Israel is trying to stop the assaults while preserving lives, a task he called "extremely difficult," Israeli radio said. "We are increasing security measures and security forces in all parts of the country," Shamir told reporters.
Israeli radio said a new leaflet issued by the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, one of the major organizations in the territories, praised the recent killings of Jews and called for a "holy war" against Israel. Politicians associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization have neither praised nor condemned the attacks.
The day's violence began this morning when a 39-year-old Arab from Jenin, in the West Bank, attacked the two unarmed soldiers with a knife as they waited for a ride near Kiryat Tivon, east of Haifa. One of the women was reported in serious condition with a punctured lung, and the other sustained superficial wounds, officials at Haifa's Ramban hospital said.
The assailant was attacked and beaten by Israeli civilians and soldiers, police said. Tonight, he was reported to be in serious condition.
In Ashkelon, two Israelis were injured this afternoon when they were attacked by a Palestinian worker from the nearby Gaza Strip, police said. The attacker bludgeoned the two men, including his employer, with a 10-pound hammer, and both were hospitalized with skull fractures, Israeli radio said.
Police quoted the Jenin resident as saying he drove into Israel to carry out an attack. The Gaza laborer, who also was arrested, was quoted as saying he wanted to avenge the death of a friend shot by the army.
The assaults accelerated a wave of violence that has shocked Israelis because of its focus on civilians inside Israel, who until now had largely remained unaffected by the 34-month-old Arab uprising in the occupied territories. In addition to Sunday's killings and the incidents today, two soldiers in the Gaza Strip and a truck driver in Jerusalem were injured in stabbings Monday, and a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and eight other Arabs wounded in clashes between the Army and demonstrators in Jenin.
More than 1,000 Palestinians have died in the intifada, as the uprising is called in Arabic, including 280 slain by fellow Arabs. Until now, however, only 51 Israelis have been killed, largely because Palestinians refrained from using lethal weapons.
According to police reports, the various Palestinian attackers have acted independently. However, knifings and other violent attacks have been encouraged by militant Palestinian organizations in the wake of the killing Oct. 8 by Israeli police of as many as 21 Palestinians in clashes on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known to Arabs as Haram Sharif.