Two Israeli jeeps descended into central Beit Jala, near the town's Orthodox Club, and were photographing buildings, eyewitnesses said.
Some residents threw rocks at the jeep, and forces fired tear gas at students from the Jerusalem Open University, they added. No injuries were reported.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said "approximately 20 Palestinians hurled rocks at the Israeli army on a routine patrol, who responded with riot dispersal means."
Maan News Agency