After a day of intense violence, Palestinian officials accused the Israelis of stepping up military actions while international attention was focused on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
But Israeli officials dismissed the assertions and said they were carrying out operations to prevent terrorist bombings.
''This has to do with terrorist suicide bombers similar to those that attacked the World Trade Center,'' said Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. ''We're just acting in self-defense, and it would have been done regardless of whether or not the Twin Towers attack had happened.''
Early this morning, Israeli troops entered the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin and two neighboring villages, demolishing part of a police headquarters and killing seven Palestinians in clashes before withdrawing. Dozens more were wounded.
Residents of Jenin said Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled in at 1:30 a.m., encountering stiff resistance from gunmen.
Half the Palestinian police office was razed, including the office of the police commander and a security services wing, residents said. One Palestinian was killed in the fighting.
The Jenin police headquarters, an Israeli Army statement said, was ''a center of terrorist activity,'' from which bombers had been sent on missions to attack Israel.
Several recent suicide attacks have been traced to Jenin, including a bombing on Sunday at a train station in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, in which three Israelis died, Israeli officials say.
The heavy fighting in the Jenin area provided another setback to efforts to arrange cease-fire talks between Mr. Arafat and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel. Those attempts, frustrated by disagreements on the venue for a meeting, were in any case put on hold after the terror attacks in the United States.
In comments broadcast on the Israeli radio today, Mr. Peres said he hoped that the attacks in New York and Washington would spur Mr. Arafat to crack down on Palestinianmilitants who were behind deadly suicide bombings in Israel.
''The Palestinians have to say that they are completely against terrorists and those that send them,'' Mr. Peres said. Israeli officials have complained that Mr. Arafat has failed to arrest militants who the Israelis suspect were involved in terrorist attacks.
Mr. Arafat has voiced shock and condemnation of the attacks in the United States, but he has not signaled a greater readiness to comply with Israeli security demands. Palestinian officials argue that security cooperation must be coupled with progress toward their political goals.
In addition to the move into Jenin, Israeli forces also entered the villages of Tamun and Arrabe in what the army said was a search-and-arrest mission to seize Palestinians suspected of anti-Israeli violence.
The drive into Arrabe killed two militants from the Islamic Holy War group, along with the 9-year-old sister of one of the men, Palestinians said.
Israeli security officials said that the militants killed had been involved in shooting and car-bombing attacks, and that one of the men had recruited suicide bombers.
The fighting also left three Palestinian security officers in the area dead, including the chief of a local security branch, Palestinians said.
Near the town of Qalqilya, on the West Bank's border with Israel, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli car, killing a settler. Palestinians have killed more than two-dozen Jewish settlers in shootings on roads since the start of the Palestinian uprising nearly a year ago.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers fired on a taxi at checkpoint near a settlement today, killing one Palestinian. An army spokeswoman said the driver of the vehicle, heading toward Khan Yunis, had come dangerously close to a settler's car after ignoring orders to halt. Soldiers in the area have been on alert for car bombs, the spokeswoman said.
Photo: An Israeli flare lit up the sky over Jenin in the West Bank early on Tuesday as Israeli tanks ringed the town. Incursions into the town continued yesterday, when the Israelis killed seven Palestinians in clashes there. (Associated Press) Map of Israel highlighting Jenin: Israeli armored forces entered Jenin and met stiff resistance.