An IDF officer was rescued Monday afternoon by Palestinian Authority police officers after he mistakenly entered Jenin.
The officer, a major serving in the army's Central Command, was on his way to the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank but accidentally drove into Jenin, located seven miles northeast of the settlement.
Local Palestinian residents who noticed the officer driving into the city hurled rocks at his car, forced him out and began beating him.
A Palestinian policeman spotted the angry mob and called for backup. The security officers struggled to reach the battered officer and several shots were apparently fired before they managed to extract him from the crowd moments before his vehicle was set aflame.
Mob torching officer's car in Jenin (Photo: AFP)
The officer was then taken to the Jenin Muqataa compound to contact the IDF and afterwards to the Jalame security crossing north of Jenin and into Israel.
The officer was not in need of medical attention and was later taken for questioning. He said was driving without a firearm but the matter is being investigated as the Palestinian police said they confiscated the major's weapon.
Shortly after the incident the Islamic Jihad angrily accused the PA Preventive Security forces of thwarting an attempt by the organization to kidnap the officer in the heart of Jenin.
"After taking control of the officer our fighters were surprised to see the Preventive Security closing in on them and taking the uniformed soldier. Within minutes four Israeli military jeeps arrived and the Israelis were given the officer by the Preventive Security.
"The Palestinian security forces must defend our fighters and the Palestinian people from the weapons of the occupation, not defend the soldiers of the occupation from the weapons of the resistance," said the group in a statement issued later in the afternoon.
Just after noon the IDF received word of the incident from the Palestinians and intelligence information verified that an Israeli officer was indeed in Jenin. IDF officials were in contact with the Civil Administration and Palestinian police and troops prepared for an emergency scenario that would include IDF soldiers entering the city to retrieve the officer.
"The soldier erred and when the Palestinian Authority officials noticed this they did their duty, picked him up and transferred him to the District Coordination and Liaison office," said Salah Basur, deputy commander of the Preventive Security forces in Jenin.
He rejected the claims of Islamic Jihad and said the officers acted in the best interest of the Palestinian people.
"We were very, very close to a lynching," said Lt. Col. Fares Atila, head of the Jalame DCO office. "We have to remember that the officer was in the heart of a Palestinian city with a partially armed Palestinian mob around him.
"When we got the report that there was an Israeli officer in Jenin we immediately contacted the Palestinians, including high-ranking officials within their security forces. Luckily those representatives did
exactly what was required of them."
Lt. Col. Atila said that regulations did not need to be changed or tightened following the incident and that at most they needed to be clarified.
Efrat Weiss and Ali Waked contributed to this report