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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Jenin camp 'horrific beyond belief'
UN envoy Larsen in Jenin
The UN envoy likened Jenin to an earthquake zone
A United Nations envoy has said that the devastation left by Israeli forces in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is "horrific beyond belief".

I think I can speak for all in the UN delegation in saying that we are shocked

Terje Roed-Larsen

Terje Roed-Larsen, who toured the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, said it was "morally repugnant" that Israel had not allowed emergency workers in for 11 days to provide humanitarian relief.

The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked the Security Council to consider sending an armed multinational force to the region, under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter which authorises military force to impose council decisions.

US President George W Bush said on Thursday that he believed an Israeli withdrawal was under way and that it was going to schedule.


  Click here to see town-by-town update

Desribing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "a man of peace", Mr Bush said Mr Sharon had begun his promised withdrawal and it was being done "quickly".

"He gave me a timetable and he's met the timetable," Mr Bush said.

Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat called Mr Bush's comments "a gift, a reward for Sharon's policy of state terrorism and war crimes".

Israel pulled its forces out of Jenin town and part of the refugee camp before dawn on Thursday.

Officials said they were also withdrawing from Nablus and that over the next three days troops would leave most West Bank areas apart from Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Search and rescue

The BBC's correspondent said Mr Roed-Larsen was highly regarded in the region and his criticism would put more pressure on the Israelis to fully withdraw.

Palestinians claim hundreds of bodies are buried beneath the rubble, but Israel says the numbers of dead are far fewer. An independent forensic expert says evidence suggests that a massacre has taken place.

Mr Roed-Larsen said the top priority was to bring in search-and-rescue teams. The only rescue efforts currently under way are residents digging though the ruins looking for survivors.

"It is totally destroyed, it looks like an earthquake has hit it," he said.

Two Palestinians embrace after troops leave Jenin
Aid agencies now have access to Jenin
"I am watching two brothers pull their father from the ruins, the stench of death is horrible. We are seeing a 12-year-old boy being dug out, totally burned," he said.

"We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes and they say they have never seen anything like it," he added.

Mr Roed-Larsen, who is the UN's Special Co-ordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, was visiting the camp with Red Cross and UN workers.

He added: "It is totally unacceptable that the government of Israel for 11 days did not allow search and rescue teams to come."

Kofi Annan made his appeal for armed intervention at a closed session of the Security Council. Israeli spokesmen swiftly rejected it while Mr Erekat said it was the "right way to start fighting Israeli aggression"

Mr Annan said there was a need for a force large enough to take "decisive action" to end the deadly cycle of attacks.

The multinational force should be assembled by countries willing to supply troops and should have "a robust mandate," he said, adding later, "I expect the United States to play an important role."

Israel 'concerned'

Israel invaded the Jenin camp on 3 April, saying it was a hotbed of Palestinian militancy and declaring it a closed military zone.

Palestinian claims of an Israeli massacre in the camp have been denied, although British forensic expert Prof Derrick Pounder has said that the evidence points to large numbers of civilian dead.

Prof Pounder is part of an Amnesty International team granted access to Jenin.

Israeli soldier after pulling out of Jenin
The Israeli forces are pulling back "according to the timetable"
Danny Ayalon, the chief foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that Israel shared the humanitarian concerns and was already allowing some aid teams to operate.

The partial pull-out by Israel came a day after the departure of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who left the region without achieving a ceasefire or a full withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Israel says troops will continue to surround the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where a group of armed Palestinians are among more than 200 people who have been holed up for more than two weeks.

Israel launched its assault on Palestinian towns on 29 March after a suicide bomber killed 28 people celebrating the Jewish Passover.

Israel says it will also continue to surround the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"As well as tanks, shells and helicopter missiles, Israelis used armoured bulldozers"
UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen
"It is the most sad and terrible thing I have ever seen"
PLO's Legal and Communications adviser Diana Buttu
"There is now a humanitarian crisis that Israel leaves in its wake"
See also:

18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel accused of using 'human shields'
17 Apr 02 | Middle East
US drawn into Mid-East chaos
18 Apr 02 | Media reports
Mid-East press raps Powell
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
18 Apr 02 | Americas
Readers boycott 'biased' LA Times
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