An Israeli man was killed and three others wounded Sunday when a Palestinian security officer opened fire on a convoy of ultra-Orthodox Jewish worshippers who had entered a religious site in a Palestinian-administered area without permission and then ignored orders to stop, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
The Jewish worshippers were attempting to make an unauthorized predawn pilgrimage to Joseph's Tomb, located in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The incident threatened to further heighten tensions in the West Bank between Jewish settlers and Palestinians. In the hours after the shooting, Palestinian youths clashed briefly with Israeli soldiers who moved into the area to protect the biblical tomb.
Since 2009, Jewish worshippers have been permitted to visit the tomb on a regular basis, but only with prior approval from the Israeli military and coordination with Palestinian authorities. The visits typically include military escorts and often use armored buses.
But in recent months, some fervent religious groups have repeatedly visited the tomb without authorization, despite warnings from Israeli and Palestinian security officials, who worried such actions might provoke violence.
On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticized the use of deadly force by Palestinian police, calling the shooting death a "murder." Another senior military official characterized it to Israeli media as a "serious mishap caused by both sides."
Palestinian officials said the matter was under investigation.
Preliminary reports suggest that Palestinian security officials fired warning shots in an attempt to stop the car after observing what they called "suspicious activity." They said the group — about 15 people in three cars — ignored calls to stop and tried to evade roadblocks. According to some Palestinian reports, the settlers were armed.
The man killed was identified as Ben-Joseph Livnat, 25, a nephew of Limor Livnat, Israel's minister of culture.
Livnat told the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv that her nephew had been killed by a "terrorist disguised as a Palestinian policeman."
Though Israel's military has ultimate security control of the occupied West Bank, it had ceded authority in some areas, including Nablus, to Palestinian security forces. In 2000, Israel's military effectively turned over administration of Joseph's Tomb to Palestinians following a violent clash for control of the area.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for Palestinian security forces, complained that armed settlers have frequently come to the tomb without permission, sometimes engaging in fights with local Palestinians. He faulted Israel's military for failing to stop the convoy at a nearby Israeli checkpoint.
"The Israelis try to blame Palestinians for such acts for political reasons, and not security reasons," he said. "Their agenda is trying to make political gains out of such incidents."