A dawn raid in the West Bank became a firefight that ended with an angry mob left four Palestinians dead and two Israeli soldiers injured with the target, believed to be a fugitive member of the military wing of Hamas, among the dead.
The shootout in the town of Jenin led to hundreds of Palestinian protesters descending on the Israeli team, who fired back, killing three.
It is one of the most security serious incidents on the West Bank in recent months and comes at a precarious time, as Israel fends off criticism that it is deliberately hindering progress in the US-backed peace talks.
The coordinated operation involving the IDF, anti-terrorist police and domestic security agency Shin Bet had as its target 22-year-old Hamza Abu el-Heija.
El-Heija, the son of a Hamas official currently serving nine life sentences in an Israeli prison, was alleged to have been involved in shooting and bombing attacks and was also wanted by the security arm of the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli soldiers say el-Heija refused to leave his home and that he opened fire first, wounding two soldiers but Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh called the Israeli actions “an escalation” and urged President Obama to intervene.
The four dead brings to 57 the number of Palestinians killed since the peace talks began and fears are growing that incidents such as this will ultimately derail the process, as the two sides look for a way to establish a Palestinian state.