Shaky calm before Annapolis peace summit tested on Sunday as IDF forces raided a West Bank city after the murder of an Israeli settler last week.
According to Palestinian officials undercover IDF troops entered the city of Tulkarm in the early afternoon and encircled a local café where a number of wanted men belonging to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - the military wing of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah - were currently gathered.
A heavy exchange of fire soon ensued between the gunmen and the Israeli forces, now backed by additional infantry troops. The shootout resulted in the death of Mohammed Qusah, who Palestinian officials confirmed was the head of al-Aqsa's Tulkarm cells, as well as the injury of three Palestinian gunmen and the arrest of 15 others.
One of the wounded gunmen is Moushir Mansur, a senior member of al-Aqsa who was pardoned as part of the amnesty agreement for Fatah operatives between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Qusah, who also had ties with Hizbullah, had not been included in the agreement.
Mansur and the other wounded gunmen were taken to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment and those detained were taken for further questioning. No Israeli casualties were reported.
It remains unclear if the brigades will respond to the raid, particularly as most of the organization is bound by the amnesty agreement and its commanders are unlikely to intentionally sabotage Abbas' efforts at the Annapolis peace conference. However the organization did officially claim responsibility for the murder of Israeli settler Ido Zoldan near Kedumim last week.