Israeli forces exchanged fire with Palestinian police, wounding one policeman, during a raid into Bethlehem in the West Bank on Tuesday, Palestinian police said.
An Israeli military source confirmed the rare gunfight with Palestinian police, most of whom were banned by Israel from carrying weapons during the uprising that began in 2000. The source said troops were on a raid to "arrest terrorists."
Bethlehem's police commander, Issa Hejo, accused the Israelis of opening fire first near a Palestinian checkpoint, sparking gunfire that lasted several minutes and wounded one policeman.
The Israeli source said the Palestinians shot at the soldiers as they neared the local government headquarters.
"The Israeli force returned fire and fired warning shots in the air," the source said.
Bethlehem has been largely quiet since Israelis and Palestinians agreed a truce in February, allowing a steady increase in the number of pilgrims visiting the place revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.
Israel has recently allowed Palestinian police to carry weapons in some towns. Most police were banned from bearing arms after the start of the uprising, in which lines often blurred between security forces and militants.
Army checkpoint bombed
Meanwhile, a Palestinian militant threw two bombs at an Israeli army checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, causing no casualties, a Palestinian security source and the Israeli army said.
An army spokeswoman said one of the bombs exploded near the roadblock outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Muslims and Jews, while the other fell without detonating and was soon defused by Israeli soldiers.
No group claimed responsibility for the blast.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces later surrounded a house in Hebron and detained four Palestinians. The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the arrests.
Palestinians also threw stones at Israeli troops in the area after the blast. The spokesman said soldiers did not respond.
About 400 Jewish settlers live among more than 120,000 Palestinians in Hebron, a frequent flashpoint in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.