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Israel Imposes New West Bank Restrictions

Israel has begun imposing new restrictions in the West Bank in the wake of new terrorist violence. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing new criticism for failing to halt the rising death toll.

Following a surge in Palestinian violence that left at least 13 Israelis dead, the Israeli army announced a total ban on movement among five West Bank towns. The army said travel will be allowed only in medical and humanitarian cases.

The move follows an escalation in violence that began with a suicide bombing on a crowded bus in northern Israel, killing nine passengers. More people died later in shooting attacks in Jerusalem and various parts of the West Bank.

Mr. Sharon's cabinet appears to be seeking a balance between Israel's security needs and a concern that more punishing measures could entirely collapse the Palestinian economy. But, Mr. Sharon's inability to stop the violence is coming under greater scrutiny than ever before.

In a front-page editorial Monday, the Hebrew newspaper Ma'ariv wrote Mr. Sharon had campaigned for office with promises to "restore security to our homes, our streets, our places of entertainment, and to the buses that we take." But the violence continues, the newspaper said, and it called on the prime minister to "address the public to explain himself, his actions, and his failings."

In reaction to the latest violence, Mr. Sharon reportedly told his cabinet that Palestinian militant groups have "grown accustomed" to the Israeli army's tactics and there is a need to make what he called "more sophisticated" actions against them. Mr. Sharon and his defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, also canceled planned meetings with senior officials of the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was due to go to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria. Mr. Peres planned to tell the Egyptian leader that what he called "the [Palestinian] terror organizations" are destroying the future of the Palestinian people.