In a daring undercover overnight raid in the West Bank town of Jenin, Israeli troops shot and killed three Palestinians, two of them security officers. The shootout erupted following the attempted arrest of Palestinian Islamic Jihad members Jamil al-Amouri and Wissam Abu Zaid, members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades. 

Israeli troops, including undercover operatives most probably from the Mista’arvim Unit, reportedly entered Jenin to arrest the two men. They were both detained, however, al-Amouri has died of wounds sustained in the firefight. Al-Amouri had previously been imprisoned in Israel.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the two security officers as Adham Yasser Alawi, 23, and Tayseer Issa, 32, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported. The two security officers were killed in a shootout with Israeli undercover operatives. A third security officer from the Palestinian Authority (PA) intelligence services, Muhammad Samer al-Bazour, was reportedly critically wounded in the firefight as well.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) issued a statement mourning the three men as martyrs. According to the statement, al-Amouri was part of al-Quds Brigades and was wanted by Israel after carrying out “many commando operations in the northern West Bank.”

“We salute the sons of the security services who stood side by side with the resistance fighters and confronted the aggression of the occupation, and this role is what the masses of our people are waiting for from the sons of the security services in confronting the occupation and fighting it,” said Hamas on Twitter.

A Misunderstanding or an Escalation Between Israel and the PA?

The Israelis and the PA normally coordinate security operations in the territory against Hamas and other militant groups seen as a mutual threat. As a result, PA normally stays well away from such Israeli operations. The coordination between the two has contributed to mounting anger by the Palestinian people at the PA as Hamas gains more power and influence.

The wanted PIJ members were sitting in a car outside of the PA security headquarters building when the shooting started. Reuters reported from a source inside of the Israeli intelligence service that PA security men rushed to the scene not knowing what was happening. They then shot at the Israelis who returned fire. 

“It appears that the unit they fired on was undercover,” Reuters’s 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.”

Palestinians from the West Bank town of Jenin walk by the shootout location where members of Islamic Jihad were killed and arrested by Israeli forces.
Palestinians from the West Bank town of Jenin walk by the shootout location where members of Islamic Jihad were killed and arrested by Israeli forces. (AP)

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called a “dangerous Israeli escalation,” saying the three men were killed by Israeli special forces who disguise themselves as Arabs during arrest raids. The spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, called on the international community and the United States to intervene to halt such attacks.

Israeli Mista’arvim units are specifically trained to assimilate among the local Arab population. They are commonly tasked with performing intelligence gathering, law enforcement, hostage rescue, and counter-terrorism. The operatives are experts at disguise and use surprise, speed, and violence of action as their main weapons.

This incident comes just weeks after a fragile peace was brokered by Egypt following an 11-day Israeli air war between Gaza and Israel that left a dozen Israelis and more than 250 Palestinians dead.