JERUSALEM -- Amid a rapidly accelerating cycle of violence, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens barred Palestinians in the occupied territories yesterday from traveling to Israel.
Israeli television said the orders would remain in effect for "several days" until tensions were reduced.
The Israeli military command said that the 1.7 million Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip would be prevented from entering Israel as of this morning. Those who frequently stay in Israel were ordered to return home.
In other developments yesterday, four Israelis, including two female soldiers, were attacked by Palestinians, one of whom was subsequently 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 yesterday, Israeli civilians fired on an Arab car in the Negev desert, killing one Palestinian laborer and wounding three other passengers.
Officials had warned they expected that the number of attacks by Arabs would increase and 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. The army confirmed the attack and said it was under investigation.
In an earlier Gaza-area incident yesterday, 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.
Exactly what happened then to the Palestinian remained unclear. State radio reported that soldiers and civilians chased him, found the knife used in the attack and then beat him.
"We chased him and then he threw down the knife and we grabbed him," a civilian, Eli Koman, told a radio reporter. "We held him down and shouted at the soldiers to shoot and kill. They wouldn't. I asked one of them to give me his rifle. He refused."
A second Israeli was quoted as saying that he and the Palestinian exchanged blows.
According to a police statement, police brought the Palestinian to a police station for questioning. Then, according to the statement, he was taken under guard to a hospital in the town of Afula. Later, a spokesman for Rambam Hospital in Haifa said the Palestinian had been transferred there and was in critical condition.
One of the female soldiers was hospitalized in critical condition with a stab wound in her chest.
In both cases, authorities also attributed the attacks to Palestinians who were seeking revenge for violence earlier this month on the Temple Mount.
In Damascus, Syria, a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, praised the series of stabbings as "heroic actions."
Defense Minister Arens blamed the attacks on efforts to reinvigorate the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, and to divert attention from the Persian Gulf crisis.
"We know Saddam Hussein's supporters and terrorist organizations want to prove the intifada is alive, well and making progress," Mr. Arens said, referring to the president of Iraq.