Israeli troops sealed off the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip Tuesday in an unprecedented security crackdown and shot and wounded at least 14 Arabs during demonstrations, Palestinian sources said.
The army barred non-residents, including reporters, from entering the West Bank and put the 28-mile-long Gaza Strip under curfew Monday night to prevent violence during massive Arab demonstrations planned for Wednesday.It was the first time Israel closed both territories since the 1967 Six Day War, and the first time in the country's history that the border bridges to Jordan were shut for security reasons.
State-run Israel Television quoted a military official as saying the measures the toughest imposed in the territories since Palestinian rioting began Dec. 9 could be extended beyond authorities' previously announced limit of Friday.
Despite the measures, which will prevent the 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel from traveling to their jobs, the Arab-run Palestine Press Service reported violent demonstrations in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the nearby village of Al Bira and the Ama'ri refugee camp.
Camp residents threw stones at cars and damaged at least 11 vehicles carrying Israeli license plates, the press service said.
In the West Bank village of Zeita in the Tulkarm area, 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem, rioters attacked soldiers with rocks and Molotov cocktails.
The soldiers opened fire, wounding at least seven people, military officials said. The Palestine Press Service said 13 people were wounded by live ammunition and four were overcome by tear gas.
The press service also reported that a 13-year-old girl was wounded by a bullet in the Rafidiyeh area.
At least 112 Arabs and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Palestinian rioting began nearly four months ago in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, seized by Israel from Jordan and Egypt during the 1967 war.
In Bethlehem, at a checkpoint outside the Jerusalem city limits, reserve soldiers checked the identification papers of drivers attempting to enter the West Bank. Large commercial trucks and most cars with yellow Israeli plates were allowed to pass, but many Arab drivers were turned back on both sides of the barricade.
At checkpoints on roads leading out of Jerusalem, non-residents also were refused passage.
At an army checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah, nine miles north of Jerusalem, soldiers briefly stopped and searched an Arab ambulance speeding to a Jerusalem hospital with its lights flashing.
A cluster of Arab women in traditional robes and white scarves, apparently stranded by the surprise closure order, waited patiently in the sun for permission to enter the West Bank.
The U.S. State Department said it regretted Israel's decision to seal off the territories.