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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Israel assesses Jenin action
An Israeli soldier in Jenin
Israel will examine events to decide the way forward
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Jonathan Marcus
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC defence correspondent
While troops continue to encircle Jenin, a wider Israeli pull-back does seem to have begun and Israeli commanders are already drawing up a balance sheet of the operation.

An Israeli soldier carries his nation's flat
With troops pulling out, Israel will now have to count the cost of Jenin
Ariel Sharon's government has come in for international condemnation for the destruction of a large part of the refugee camp in Jenin which was bulldozed during the fighting.

Israeli commanders insist that their massive incursion into the West Bank produced significant results.

But any military successes have to be viewed in a wider political context where the outcome of the action may not be so positive.

In purely military terms, Israeli spokesmen are insisting that this operation succeeded beyond their expectations.

Israeli casualties were significant: some 29 dead and well over 100 injured.

A Palestinian woman wails amid the devastation
Emotions fuelled by the invasion may lead to more suicide bombers
Palestinian casualties were markedly greater, though their true number and the balance between armed fighters and civilians is far from clear.

Israeli commanders say that they have arrested up to 200 wanted individuals.

They claim to have inflicted severe damage on the infrastructure of several Palestinian armed groups.

And they have clearly derived much useful intelligence, which probably explains some of the swiftly mounted follow-up operations like the arrest on Thursday of a senior Hamas figure in a village north east of Nablus.

Passions stoked

But in itself this operation is not going to halt the suicide bombings.

They may decrease in number for a time.

But the battle for Jenin has stoked the very passions on which the suicide bombers thrive.

The widespread criticism of Israel's actions in Jenin has been dismissed by Israeli spokesmen as one-sided and unrealistic.

An Israeli soldier amid Jenin rubble
Damage done: Israel was criticised for its destruction of Jenin
Whatever happened on the ground, it has done Israel considerable damage in term of international public opinion - another factor that must be set against the narrow measurement of military success.

While European governments were quick to condemn the Israeli operation, the Bush administration seemed much more sceptical towards the Palestinian leadership and, though clearly uncomfortable, was unwilling or unable to halt the Israeli operation.

Americans tend to see Israel's offensive in terms of the war against terrorism; Europeans tend to see it as part of a struggle for Palestinian self-determination.

Neither view is the whole story, but this difference in perception only further complicates the tormented path towards peace.

Terje Roed-Larsen, UN Middle East envoy
"I am not accusing anyone of massacres, we don't have full access to the facts in Jenin"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel loosens grip on Jenin
18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin camp 'horrific beyond belief'
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
Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
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