Israeli military forces have launched an incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin, as part of continuing raids designed to stop Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.

A column of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers stormed into Jenin, just hours after a previous military operation in the town had ended.

Soldiers fired into the air with heavy machine guns and clamped a curfew on residents of Jenin and surrounding villages.

An Israeli army spokesman called the raid a "routine patrol" into the Palestinian-ruled town, which is located in the northern part of the West Bank.

Israeli troops began entering Jenin after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a car packed with explosives earlier this week next to a crowded Israeli bus.

The attack killed 17 Israelis, most of them young soldiers on their way to military bases. The teenage suicide bomber set out on his mission from Jenin.

The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Israeli officials blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for failing to crack down on militant groups involved in such attacks.

Friday's incursion came a day after Israeli forces retaliated for the suicide bombing by raiding the Palestinian leader's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr. Arafat was not hurt during the assault, but troops destroyed several buildings in his compound.

The daily violence and retaliation threaten to undermine intensified international diplomacy aimed at ending the bloodshed and reviving peace talks.

In the past week, two top U.S. officials have visited the region and met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is scheduled to leave Saturday for talks early next week with President Bush in Washington.

Mr. Sharon delayed his departure after the suicide bombing, ordering his forces to attack Mr. Arafat's headquarters.

Mr. Arafat's future role as leader of the Palestinian Authority is expected to be discussed when the Israeli Prime Minister meets Mr. Bush on Monday.

President Bush has never invited Mr. Arafat to the White House.