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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Israeli army can clear Jenin dead
A woman examines the ruins of her home in Jenin
Jenin was hit by days of intense fighting
The Israeli High Court has thrown out a petition to stop the Israeli army from removing bodies of people killed in fighting in Jenin refugee camp.

But the court also said that the Red Cross and Palestinian Red Crescent should accompany the army.

Boys amid the rubble in Jenin
Israelis fear booby-traps, Palestinians claim there was a massacre
It said that the bodies should not be buried by the army in mass graves but released to the Palestinian Authority.

The petition - by two Arab Israeli members of parliament - was brought on the grounds that the planned mass graves would strip the dead Palestinians of any honour.

Palestinians had earlier alleged that the army was already secretly burying the dead to conceal evidence of a massacre.

Israel has strenuously denied the accusations of a massacre at Jenin, which remains a closed military zone.

Nobody yet knows exactly what happened during the days of intense fighting inside Jenin or even how many Palestinians were killed.

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that about 70 Palestinians were killed in Jenin, fewer than earlier Israeli army estimates.

Palestinians say the figure is far higher.

What is certain is that decaying bodies remain in the open throughout the camp.

'Law violation'

But plans by the Israeli army to begin burying the dead in mass graves in the Jordan Valley prompted petitions by the MPs and by two Palestinian human rights groups.

Map of the West Bank showing Jenin
A temporary halt to the removals was ordered last week by the court, but it has now said they can continue.

The ruling says that bodies should not be buried by the army but released to the Palestinian Authority.

However, if the bodies are not buried immediately, the court said, the army can step in and conduct burials.

One of the MPs - Mohamed Barakeh - described the court decision as "positive", the Associated Press news agency said.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Middle East
The battle for Jenin
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel stalls over troop withdrawal
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin's trapped people
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Aid held up outside Jenin
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