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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Jenin camp situation 'horrendous'
Israeli soldier stands in front of a demolished building in Jenin refugee camp
It is not known how many bodies lie in the rubble
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the situation in the refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin as "horrendous".


The situation inside the camps is really horrendous, there's a lot of destruction and the smell is absolutely terrible everywhere

Jessica Barry
ICRC
Spokeswoman Jessica Barry said there was a lot of destruction and a terrible smell in the camp.

The ICRC is overseeing an operation just begun by the Israeli military to remove the bodies of dead Palestinians from the camp.

Some bodies have been brought out, but a spokesman for the ICRC said the priority was treatment for the injured, who have been without help for days.

Palestinians have alleged that a massacre took place during the battle in the camp, and have said the army had begun burying the dead to conceal evidence. The allegations have brought international condemnation.

The operation comes as US Secretary of State Colin Powell continues his peace mission in the region, travelling to Lebanon and Syria in an attempt to calm rising tensions there.

'Enormous' task

The ICRC said it was the first time its workers had been allowed into the camp since the fierce fighting earlier this month.

Map of the West Bank showing Jenin
"We've had six days of difficult negotiations to get in. All our activities are being co-ordinated with the Israeli Government," said Ms Barry.

After a brief withdrawal to assess the situation, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Jenin said the organisation was returning to the camp overnight, and was co-ordinating with the military.

Israel Radio said 14 bodies were found but only seven were removed, because areas of the camp remain booby-trapped, the Reuters news agency reported.

The ICRC says the scale of the task is "enormous" and that its priority is to treat the injured before removing bodies.

Journalists who accompanied medical staff said they saw six bodies, apparently police officers, blackened by an explosion or a fire as well as one civilian.

Fadi Jarar, from the Palestinian Red Crescent, said the dangerous state of the buildings, had prevented his team from recovering at least one body.

Boy in Jenin Refugee camp
The Red Cross hopes to bring in humanitarian aid
"We couldn't pull it out because we were afraid the rubble would collapse on us," he said.

Israeli tanks and bulldozers have reduced much of the camp to dust.

The Israeli High Court on Sunday rejected an attempt to stop the military from taking away the corpses of those killed, but stipulated that the Red Cross must oversee the operation and that the bodies must be released to the Palestinian Authority.

International condemnation

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.

Twenty-three Israelis were killed in the fighting.

The allegations of a massacre in Jenin have sparked condemnation from around the world.

The United Nations on Monday passed a resolution accusing Israel of "gross violations" of international law.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Many bodies are still buried in the wreckage"
Jessica Barry, Red Cross
"There's a lot of destruction and the smell is absolutely terrible"
Janine di Giovanni, The Times newspaper in London
"Twelve years of covering war hadn't prepared me for this place"
Israeli ambassador in London, Dr Zvi Shtauber
"Israeli soldiers took part in no massacre"
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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