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Territories Put Under Curfew After Riots Escalate in Gaza

With close to 500,000 Palestinians under curfew in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an ominous quiet prevailed in the territories Sunday, a day after some of the worst violence hit the territories since the Palestinian uprising began 17 months ago.

Official sources said three Palestinians were killed Saturday and 70 wounded in clashes between Israeli security forces and Arab rioters. Palestinian sources put the number of wounded at 142.

The casualties in Gaza were the highest for a single day since the intifada began.

Curfews were clamped on all eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and on the towns of Beit Hanun and Jabalya.

In the West Bank, curfews were in force in the towns of Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, as well as the refugee camps.

They are expected to remain under curfew until after Israel celebrates the 41st anniversary of its independence on Wednesday.

Observers are not sure whether the new wave of violence stemmed from a decision by the leaders of the uprising to escalate the situation or was generated by the end of the month-long holiday of Ramadan, marked by daylight fasting and heightened religious feelings.

The recent reduction in the number of Israeli forces in the territories may also have played a part.

Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, commander of the southern region, warned residents of the Gaza Strip on Sunday that “our patience and tolerance are not unlimited.”

He said further attempts to attack Israeli soldiers would have dire consequences.

The latest riots in the Gaza Strip, the clashes between Jewish settlers and Arab residents in the West Bank last week and the probable kidnapping of another Israeli soldier, the second in three months, has fired up right-wing Cabinet ministers.

They are demanding that the Israel Defense Force take tougher measures against the Arab population.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Labor has refused to consider it, saying get-tough policies do no good, because ultimately only political action can change the situation.

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