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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK
Tragedy at Jenin, says US envoy
Palestinians perch on what remains of their homes in Jenin
Israel says it has nothing to hide about Jenin operation
A US envoy to the Middle East has described the devastation at the Jenin refugee camp as a "tragedy for thousands of innocent Palestinian people".

US Undersecretary of State William Burns on Saturday toured the camp which has been the scene of recent heavy fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.


What happened here in the Jenin camp has caused enormous human suffering

William Burns, US envoy

Late on Saturday, the Israeli army said tanks and armored vehicles had began pulling out of parts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, with the exception of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's besieged headquarters.

Israel has said it will co-operate fully with a United Nations fact-finding team which is to look into what happened in Jenin.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of committing a massacre at the camp; Israel has denied the allegation, saying those who died were mainly armed fighters.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that "Israel has nothing to hide regarding the operation in Jenin."

The Palestinians have welcomed the UN mission as a step forward, but insisted that an international peacekeeping force should be sent too.

Gaza deaths

Fresh violence erupted on Saturday, as a Palestinian gunman was shot dead after killing an Israeli border policeman at the Erez checkpoint on the border between Gaza and Israel.

Funeral of Islamic Jihad militant
Palestinian militants vowed revenge against Israel

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, an armed wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, said one of its members from Gaza City carried out the attack.

In Gaza City, hundreds of Palestinians attended the funeral of two members of the militant Islamic Jihad organisation, killed by Israeli troops outside the Netzarim settlement on Friday.

Israel said the men had been trying to infiltrate the settlement to stage an attack.

Jenin bodies

Israel said on Friday its forces had fully withdrawn from Jenin but were still ringing the city and the camp.


Map

  Click here to see town-by-town update

The army said some of its soldiers were in the camp extricating bodies for burial, under the observation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Palestinian medical sources said about 40 bodies have so far been recovered, while a Jenin hospital official said the body count was expected to climb.

Israel says about 70 Palestinians were killed in 12 days of fighting.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs, who is in Jenin, said the US undersecretary of state spent three hours inside the camp.

As he walked through he occasionally paused to watch teams of Palestinians shifting rubble with their bare hands.

Mr Burns said aid agencies should be given "full and complete access" to the entire area.

The clear-up is proceeding cautiously, aid workers say, because of an unknown number of explosive devices.

An Israeli-Arab doctor had his foot blown off in an explosion in a booby-trapped house, French news agency AFP reported.

Israel radio said six other people were wounded in similar circumstances on Saturday.

Sieges continue

Israel says it will pull troops back from the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, but its forces will remain in Bethlehem and Ramallah.

It has rejected an offer by Yasser Arafat to put the alleged killers of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on trial in a Palestinian court.

Israel has demanded the suspects, who are inside Mr Arafat's besieged compound, be handed over to Israel before it will withdraw from the area, which it has surrounded since the end of March.

Bethlehem's mayor said on Saturday that there had been no progress in talks with Israel to end the siege of the Church of the Nativity.

Israeli troops have surrounded the church since 2 April, demanding the surrender of armed Palestinians inside.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"It is a picture of devastation"
The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"It is going to be some time before the full facts are known"
UK Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw
"We will be able to establish the facts"
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
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
Analysis: 'War crimes' on West Bank
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
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