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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Jenin's trapped people
Palestinian woman overlooks Jenin
Refugees are leaving the camp with few supplies
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By the BBC's Alan Johnston
In Salam, near Jenin
As tanks manoeuvre at an Israeli checkpoint on the main road into Jenin, soldiers are stopping journalists going any further.

Refugee from Jenin rests on a makeshift bed in a mosque
Many were forced to seek refuge in mosques

While Israeli armour pushes down the road to reinforce the army's grip on Jenin, just up the hill here in the Arab Israeli village of Salam a quite different operation is under way.

Relief supplies are being unloaded for refugees from Jenin who have taken shelter in a village beyond the next hill, just inside the West Bank.

A man called Saeb Younis told me what was going on.

'Many hundreds'

"A lot of refugees are leaving Jenin and the Jenin camp with no basic things like bread, water...they are totally homeless," he said.

"So we came from our town. We collected from everybody's house whatever they had - mattresses, blankets, food, medicine - hopefully to give that over to the West Bank, to the area of Jenin."

I asked him if he had managed to discover from these refugees how desperate the situation is.

"I just spoke with a relative of mine, a cousin of mine, and he told me the town of Zbouba, they don't have anything, literally anything, and they are receiving refugees," he said.

"So they have to share whatever they have, whatever the leftovers that they still have, with these many hundreds of refugees."


Later a man called Mouad told me that other Palestinians from surrounding villages here on the Israeli side of the line have brought all kinds of relief here: wheat, oil, bedding and clothing.

Blindfolded Palestinian prisoners are bussed away as Israeli soldiers look on
The Israeli army has been conducting security sweeps of Jenin

He tells me that he saw people who had been tortured.

Some had cigarette burns, others had been forced to come virtually naked, wearing nothing other than their underwear, to the mosque where they are staying, he said.

I asked him if this made him worried about Israeli soldiers, and he said of course.

However he said he feels that he has to make the journey - they have got nothing and he can take them what they need, he said.

Just down the hillside from the Salam village, we watched journalists en route to the refugee village being detained in the olive groves by Israeli soldiers.

'Human shields'

But one journalist who did manage to evade the patrols was Alan Philps of the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph.

Some of them say they had to act as human shields in front of the armoured vehicles, walking in front of the tanks...or indeed walking in front of Israeli soldiers till they got to a safer place

Journalist Alan Philps

"There are about 600 young men who have been detained by the Israeli army and then put through the filtration process and then released at the checkpoint," he told me.

"They were all told that if they went to the village called Romani they would get food and shelter. And that's true, they are providing three meals a day and they seem to be sleeping mainly in the mosque."

However Mr Philps corroborated much of what Mouad had told me.

"The most significant thing is that all the men were made to undress to their underclothes," he said.

"Some of them say they had to act as human shields in front of the armoured vehicles, walking in front of the tanks...or indeed walking in front of Israeli soldiers till they got to a safer place."

Mr Philps said the men were held for between one and three days, with much of that time spent sitting on the ground blindfolded, mostly with their faces between their knees, not being allowed to move and not given anything to eat.

As the sun sets on another tense day in the West Bank, the men of Salam village gathered to watch the Israeli helicopter gunships circle over Jenin in the distance.

And tomorrow, they will make yet more attempts to run supplies through to refugees from the beleaguered city.

See also:

11 Apr 02 | Middle East
US intensifies Mid-East truce push
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Aid held up outside Jenin
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: West Bank commuter odyssey
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Fears of 'second front' in Lebanon
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Suicide bomb fears haunt Israelis
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