At least 10 Palestinians are dead and dozens wounded after Israeli military raids into refugee camps sparked fierce gun battles in the West Bank. One Israeli soldier was also killed in the fighting.

Backed by tanks and combat helicopters, Israeli troops launched major assaults on two Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank.

At least six Palestinian police officers and one civilian were killed in exchanges of gunfire when Israeli forces raided a camp in a Palestinian-ruled area of Jenin.

At the Balata refugee camp near Nablus at least three Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in a similar incursion.

The Israeli army called the camps strongholds of Palestinian militants and said the operations were to show that "there is no safe haven for terror."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir says the military raided the camps to track down Palestinians who are launching attacks on Israelis. "Since it is the duty of the government of Israel to protect its people, we had go and to enter the refugee camps in order to go after those terrorists who are doing these vicious actions in the state of Israel," he said.

Israeli troops have repeatedly entered Palestinian-ruled areas during 17 months of violence, but have generally stayed out of refugee camps.

Tanks can not enter the narrow alleys of the crowded camps, and the Israeli military has not sent in large groups of ground forces, apparently to avoid casualties.

Balata is home to about 20,000 Palestinian refugees and is a hotbed of support for fighters waging the uprising against Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian security chief in the West Bank, Jabril Rajoub, called the Israeli incursions "a predetermined massacre by the occupation authorities aimed at killing any effort at calm."

The raids occurred hours after a female Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a military roadblock in the West Bank, wounding three Israeli policemen.

The woman killed herself near a Jewish settlement on a road linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Family members say the woman was an English literature student and an Islamic militant at a University in Nablus.