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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Rescue teams join Jenin search
Palestinian emergency workers recover a body
A number of bodies have already been recovered
International teams of specialist rescue workers are joining the effort to clear the Jenin refugee camp and save possible survivors.

Dozens of homes in the centre of the camp were reduced to rubble by Israeli shelling and bulldozers during the week-long battle between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops.

A family watches as rescue workers search for survivors
A family watches as rescue workers search for survivors
Search and rescue teams from Switzerland, Norway and France will help with the removal of the debris and the search for bodies and survivors over the weekend, said the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Richard Cook, UNRWA director of operations in the West Bank, told BBC News Online that offers of help had been pouring in from around the world.

Britain, the United States and Turkey are reported to have offered the services of specialised personnel in various fields.

Earthquake experience

Doctors, engineers and explosive experts - many with experience of working in earthquake zones - will be working in conditions that involve risks from unexploded mines and explosives and crumbling structures.

It is still unclear how many people died in the camp - the scene of the heaviest fighting in Israel's three-week offensive in the West Bank.

Palestinians accuse the Israelis of a massacre and say at least 500 were killed. Israel says the figure is "dozens not hundreds".

A Palestinian family returns to what was once their home
A Palestinian family finds their home has been reduced to rubble
Residents of the camp say hundreds of civilians have been buried under the rubble of their homes, along with Palestinian gunmen.

But the Israeli army has vehemently denied the charges, saying most of those who were killed were gunmen.

So far, nearly 40 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers are confirmed killed in Jenin.

Accounting for the dead

Palestinian men, women and children - some with shovels, others with bare hands - continue to search through the rubble for missing members of their families.

As international concern grows about how many residents might have been killed, UNRWA says it will begin taking people's testimonies within the next few days.

The ICRC and UNRWA will also study the list of detainees and the register of refugees resident at the camp.

But Mr Cook told BBC News Online that it would take weeks to establish everyone's whereabouts and compile an accurate list of the dead.

The Israeli military offensive in Jenin has become an emotive issue in the Middle East conflict.

Israel says its operation was a battle against Palestinian terrorists responsible for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

But the Palestinians are comparing what has happened to the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, when at least 800 Palestinians died.

The tight military cordon around the camp has made it impossible for the claims of atrocities to be independently verified or refuted.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jenin
"Perhaps only a full international investigation will ever get to the bottom of what happened here"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Hamas leader held in Bethlehem
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel assesses Jenin action
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
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