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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Jenin 'massacre evidence growing'
Civilians watching tanks
Israeli tanks have begun to pull out
A British forensic expert who has gained access to the West Bank city of Jenin says evidence points to a massacre by Israeli forces.

Prof Derrick Pounder, who is part of an Amnesty International team granted access to Jenin, said he has seen bodies lying in the streets and received eyewitness accounts of civilian deaths.

The Dundee University expert said the Amnesty investigation has only just begun but Palestinian claims of a massacre were gaining foundation as the team continued its analysis.

Derrick Pounder
Derrick Pounder: Evidence of a massacre
He said: "The truth will come out, as it has come out in Bosnia and Kosovo, as it has in other places where we've had these kinds of allegations.

"I must say that the evidence before us at the moment doesn't lead us to believe that the allegations are anything other than truthful and that therefore there are large numbers of civilian dead underneath these bulldozed and bombed ruins that we see."

The professor said recovering the bodies would be difficult because many buildings collapsed during bombardment.

He said: "We know there are families who were there and killed and buried.

"We were on the ruins yesterday and two elderly men came forward, each of them pointed to where their houses had been and one of them told us that 10 members of his family were buried under the rubble."

'Beyond belief'

He said post mortems on two bodies had "given cause for suspicion" and there was "extensive damage" to Jenin.

An area of the town the size of several football pitches has been flattened.

Prof Pounder was speaking as Israeli forces began to pull out of Jenin and the town of Nablus.

A United Nations special envoy described the the devastation as "horrific beyond belief".

Terje Roed-Larsen, who visited the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, criticised Israel for not allowing rescue teams in after the battle with Palestinian gunmen.

Israeli officials reversed a ban on the Amnesty team entering the Jenin refugee camp and government hospital on Wednesday.

Amnesty had considered legal action against the Israeli Government over the ban.

Israel 'fighting for its life'

Israeli forces moved into the Jenin camp on 3 April, saying it was a hotbed of Palestinian militancy and declaring it a closed military zone.

Zalmon Shoval, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defended Israel's actions, saying it was fighting for its life.

"Mr Larsen has no business whatsoever to tell us what is right or wrong," he told the BBC.

Palestinians claim hundreds of bodies are buried beneath the rubble, but Mr Shoval said only about 65 bodies had been recovered, of which five were civilians.

Israel's large-scale military operations across the West Bank were launched following a spate of deadly Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke reports
"As well as tanks, shells and helicopter missiles, Israelis used armoured bulldozers"
Derrick Pounder, forensic expert
"There is extensive damage and a particular area has been flattened"
See also:

18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel tanks leave Jenin camp
17 Apr 02 | Scotland
Forensic expert barred from Jenin
13 Apr 02 | Scotland
Forensic expert flies to war zone
17 Apr 02 | Middle East
US drawn into Mid-East chaos
17 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: 'War crimes' on West Bank
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat aide chides Arab leaders
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell makes final ceasefire push
17 Apr 02 | Middle East
US puts funding pressure on Arafat
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