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October 26, 2002

Israel army reoccupies Jenin as U.S. mission ends

Burns concludes US mission. Israel begins its mission to root out terrorists responsible for deadly bus bombing.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is tightening its grip on Jenin, scouring the battered West Bank city for Palestinian militants responsible for suicide bombings as a U.S. peace mission wound down indecisively.

The Israeli army said on Saturday it detained six Palestinians in and near Jenin.

Hundreds of troops backed by heavy armour rolled into Jenin on Friday, commandeering buildings, searching homes and imposing curfews. The army drew fire from gunmen and also on the diplomatic front from the European Union, which urged restraint.

Israeli military chiefs said the Jenin operation -- dubbed "Vanguard" -- would last as long as necessary to flush out militants waging a Palestinian uprising for independence with suicide bombings such as one which killed 14 Israelis on Monday.

Palestinian medics said six people were seriously wounded in clashes with the army -- violence which overshadowed the end of a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by U.S. envoy William Burns.

Burns came with a "roadmap" for peace based on a Middle East policy speech last June by President George W. Bush, who has been seeking to lower Israeli-Palestinian tensions as Washington prepares for possible war on Iraq.