Ravage of Jenin is horrific, says UN envoy
                  By Alan Philps in Jerusalem
                  (Filed: 19/04/2002)

                  THE devastation at the Jenin refugee camp was "horrific beyond belief", the United Nations Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, said yesterday.

                  The Israeli army's refusal to allow medical teams in for 11
                  days was unacceptable, he said.

                  "It is totally unacceptable that the government of Israel for 11 days did not allow search and rescue teams to come. This is morally  repugnant," said Mr. Roed-Larsen.

                  "Israel has a right to self defence but that does not give it a
                  blank cheque."

                  In his strongest rebuke of Israel yet, Jack Straw, the
                  Foreign Secretary, called yesterday for an international
                  investigation into the actions of the Israeli military in
                  Jenin.

                  "Such is the scale of the evidence that there is a strong
                  case for Israel to answer," he said.

                  Mr Roed-Larsen visited the camp, scene of the biggest
                  battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen, as
                  the army began to withdraw from the city of Jenin.

                  No troops could be seen inside the camp - a small shanty
                  town on the edge of the city. But snipers were still in
                  position in high buildings.

                  The government later announced that the army would
                  leave the city overnight and troops would quit the city of
                  Nablus by the weekend. The army would stay on the
                  outskirts of these cities, poised to return. However, the
                  blockade of the Ramallah compound of the Palestinian
                  leader Yasser Arafat would remain in place.

                  Troops would also remain in the centre of Bethlehem,
                  besieging the Church of the Nativity, the site of Jesus's
                  birth, where about 30 Palestinian militants have sought
                  refuge, alongside dozens of civilians, priests and monks.

                  Palestinians began digging through the ruins of Jenin to
                  find signs of their loved ones. One man reported that five
                  people had been found alive but this was later denied by
                  the hospital authorities.

                  So far only 21 bodies have been recovered though it is
                  expected that dozens more will be exhumed from under
                  the rubble of buildings.

                  Dr Kathleen Cavanaugh, a human rights lawyer, is part of
                  an Amnesty International delegation looking into the Jenin
                  battle.

                  "What we have been able to discover so far indicates
                  grave violations of human rights and international
                  humanitarian law," she said yesterday. "Depending on
                  what we find later, and whether there are any patterns to
                  discover, this may constitute a war crime."

                  Human rights activists are focusing on the refusal of
                  medical access to the camp, which they say probably
                  added to the death toll.

                  Derrick Pounder, professor of forensic medicine at
                  Dundee University, said: "The International Committee of
                  the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent
                  ambulances were denied access.

                  "What is striking is that there are no seriously injured. We
                  have walking wounded and the dead. In such a conflict
                  you would expect to have more wounded than dead. They
                  died because of denial of access by medical teams."

                  Prof Pounder, a veteran of Chechnya and other conflicts,
                  said the preliminary evidence showed that homes had
                  been bulldozed on people.

                  "Our reports suggest that as the fighting progressed
                  people moved from house to house to escape," he said.

                  "When the battle caught up with them, the houses had a
                  great accumulation of people in them, up to 40 in a room.
                  During a 13-day battle it is reasonable to expect that a
                  period could have been found to evacuate the wounded."

                  Prof Pounder has carried out post mortem examinations
                  on only two bodies so far. He is permitted by the
                  Palestinian authorities to operate only on unidentified
                  bodies, since the next of kin have proved impossible to
                  find.

                  Gideon Meir, a senior official of the Israeli Foreign
                  Ministry, said last night that no homes had been bulldozed
                  on top of people.

                  "The terrorists are to blame for the destruction of the
                  houses," he said. "It is they who planted bombs and
                  booby-traps in every house."

                  The Israeli army lost 23 soldiers, a relatively high toll,
                  including 13 killed in a single ambush.

                  The crowded refugee camp, a centre for Islamic militants
                  who pledged to fight to the death, was said have been the
                  source of half of the suicide bombers who blew
                  themselves up inside Israel.

                  The Israeli army announced the capture of one of the
                  leaders of the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic
                  Resistance Movement, who is accused of involvement in
                  some of the worst suicide bombings. Husam Badran was
                  arrested by commandos during an attack on his hideout
                  near Nablus.

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