People wait outside the Palestinian military intelligence security service headquarters in Jenin where the shoot out took place on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

JENIN, West Bank: Israeli special forces on Thursday killed an Islamic Jihad militant and two Palestinian security men in an exchange of fire during a raid in the occupied West Bank.

The special forces had entered the Palestinian city of Jenin to detain gunmen suspected of having recently attacked Israeli troops, an Israeli security source said.

The two Palestinian officers may have been killed in a possible case of misunderstanding. Palestinian Authority (PA) security personnel seldom clash with their Israeli counterparts and usually keep clear of Israeli raids in the West Bank.

Jenin deputy governor Jamal Abu Al Rub said undercover Israeli troops killed one man — claimed by Islamic Jihad as a member — and wounded another as they sat in a car outside the Palestinian military intelligence security service headquarters.

Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy
* Under interim peace agreements signed in the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy in scattered enclaves that together make up around 40% of the occupied West Bank. Hamas drove its forces out of Gaza in 2007 when the militant group seized power.

* Israel has overarching security authority in the West Bank and routinely carries out arrest raids in Palestinian cities and towns administered by the PA.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years in April when it appeared his fractured Fatah party would suffer another embarrassing defeat to Hamas, and he was largely sidelined during last month's Gaza war.

*Abbas is committed to a negotiated solution that would create a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, which Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war. But there have been no substantive peace negotiations in more than a decade.

Two of the service’s officers returned fire and were killed, Al Rub told Reuters at the hospital where the dead men were brought to.

The Israeli security source said that after the initial exchange of fire with the militants, Palestinian security officers summoned from a nearby compound by the commotion shot at the Israelis.

“It appears that the unit they fired on was undercover,” the source said. “Our forces fired back, apparently thinking that the shooting from the Palestinian security men was part of the clash with the wanted terrorists.” There was no official Israeli comment on the overnight incident.

The Palestinian Authority coordinates security with Israel in the West Bank despite long-stalled talks on resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. During last month’s fighting over the Palestinian-run enclave Gaza, unrest also flared in the West Bank.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the incident was a “dangerous escalation” and the PA was holding Israel responsible for the consequences.