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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
UN agrees to Jenin mission
A Palestinian woman mourns over the bodies of Palestinians killed during a week of fierce fighting in Jenin
Israel insists there was no massacre in Jenin
The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to send a fact-finding mission to look into Israeli military action at the Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin.

But after heavy diplomatic pressure from the US and Israel, the resolution does not describe the mission as an investigation.

Israel has nothing to hide regarding the operation in Jenin

Israeli FM Shimon Peres
Arab nations have been leading calls for an investigation into the operation that left buildings destroyed and an unknown number of people killed during the Israeli army incursion in Jenin.

Continuing their partial withdrawal from the West Bank, Israeli forces pulled out of Jenin on Friday, but new fighting erupted in the Gaza Strip.

Residents at the Jenin camp - the scene of the fiercest fighting during Israel's military operation - went about the task of retrieving the bodies of the dead.


  Click here to see town-by-town update

International aid workers have also moved in to try to help the homeless and trace the missing.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli army of carrying out a massacre.

But Israeli officials put the number of Palestinians killed at about 70. They say most were gunmen who died in the fighting that also left 23 Israeli soldiers dead.

Agreement on the mission to Jenin was reached after Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that his government would co-operate with the UN in sharing facts about what happened there.

Mr Peres told the UN chief that "Israel has nothing to hide regarding the operation in Jenin."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, left, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Peres, left, met the US secretary of state in Washington on Friday
"Our hands are clean," he added, according to Israel's UN Mission.

Arab diplomats had been pushing for a resolution calling for an investigation into the events surrounding the destruction at Jenin and subsequent loss of life.

The US initially indicated it would block any resolution on the subject, but then changed tack and proposed its own version.

Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the UN, said the vote was important because "we believe a serious war crime was committed, a serious massacre was committed, and therefore some people will have to be held responsible and perhaps brought to justice."

A relative of Rezik Baker is overcome with emotion during his funeral
At least six Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip
The BBC's Greg Barrow at the UN says the result is, in effect, a diplomatic finesse.

It falls short of what Arab nations initially demanded, but goes some way towards satisfying Israeli concern that it should not be subjected to an intrusive and politically-motivated investigation, he says.

The Israeli army, which launched its operation to try to counter a string of deadly suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, says it has now pulled out of Jenin and its refugee camp, but will continue to surround them to prevent "terrorist attacks".

Residents say their continuing presence in what was previously Palestinian-controlled territory means there has been no proper withdrawal.

Withdrawal plans

Israeli officials say that by early Sunday, troops will also have left most other West Bank areas apart from Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Kofi Annan
Annan has called for armed peacekeepers
Soldiers will continue to surround the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, however, where a group of armed Palestinians have been holed up for more than two weeks.

They will also still besiege the Palestinian leader's headquarters in Ramallah.

Suicide bombing

The worst violence for a month flared in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and Friday, with at least six Palestinians killed in various incidents.

In Gaza, the militant Islamic Jihad group said that one of its volunteers had carried out the suicide bombing outside Gush Katif, which injured two Israeli soldiers.

It was the first such attack since a woman blew herself up near a Jerusalem market a week ago, killing six people.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli tanks advanced into Gaza's Rafah refugee camp, firing heavy machine guns and killing three men before pulling out several hours later, Palestinian witnesses said.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"Aid agencies say the Israeli army is still hampering their work"
The BBC's James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem
"Palestinians are willing to continue attacks"
See also:

20 Apr 02 | Middle East
Church seeks action on Bethlehem siege
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel assesses Jenin action
19 Apr 02 | Media reports
Israeli papers reject massacre charge
18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel accused of using 'human shields'
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Rescue teams join Jenin search
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Hamas leader held in Bethlehem
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
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