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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
UN names Jenin inquiry team
Palestinians dig in the rubble of Jenin camp
Palestinians say there are bodies under the rubble
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed Finland's former President Martti Ahtisaari head of a team to probe events at the refugee camp in Jenin, where Palestinians say the Israeli army "massacred" civilians.

The commission will investigate claims of human rights abuses during Israel's eight-day incursion into the camp.


I expect the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to co-operate fully with the team

Kofi Annan
Palestinians say hundreds of civilians died, but Israel insists the number of dead was fewer than 100, and that most of them were gunmen.

Criticism of Israel has also come the from the Red Cross and the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which on Monday accused it of violating international humanitarian laws during its operation in the Jenin camp.

The UN commission also includes Sadako Ogata of Japan, former head of the UN refugee agency, and Cornelio Sammaruga, the Swiss former head of the International Red Cross.

Retired US General William Nash, a former UN regional administrator in Kosovo, will be military adviser to the team, and Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland, a former UN civilian police officer, will be police adviser.

Conditions imposed

Mr Annan said: "The team will start its work without delay. It will first assemble in Europe this week and then travel to the region as soon as possible.

"I expect the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to co-operate fully with the team and to provide full and complete access to all sides, sources of information and individuals that the team will consider necessary."

An Israeli official told the news agency AFP that they were surprised not to have been consulted over the appointments.

"We would have preferred the team to be made up of military specialists qualified to assess the complexity of a battle in a populated area," the official said.

Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari is a renowned international diplomat
Nabil Abu Rudeina, a senior aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, welcomed the appointments and told AFP they would give the team all the assistance it needed.

The decision to send a commission was agreed by the UN Security Council on Friday.

The US agreed to it on the condition that the team would report to Mr Annan and not to the Security Council, which Israel regards as biased against it.

There was controversy between Israel and New York over who should sit on the commission.

Israel said it had nothing to hide in Jenin, but had warned it would not accept a commission which included UN regional co-ordinator Terje Roed-Larsen, UNRWA head Peter Hansen or the UN's human rights chief Mary Robinson.

Israel accuses the three officials of pro-Palestinian bias.

'War crimes' inquiry

Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, is calling for full international war crimes inquiry, following its three-day survey of Jenin camp.

Hospital officials say that fewer than 50 bodies have been recovered, but the Palestinians say hundreds of people have been killed and may be buried under houses bulldozed by the Israeli army.

Israel says 23 of its soldiers were killed in the refugee camp, including 13 in a single ambush, as its troops rooted out Palestinian militants.

Jenin residents cover noses because of smell of rotting corpses
The smell of rotting corpses is now overpowering

"The claim that only fighters were killed is simply not true - a mixture of bodies were clearly civilians and combatants," said Derrick Pounder, forensics expert from Dundee University in Scotland.

Mr Pounder said he had examined five of 21 bodies, including three women, which were uncovered during his three days in Jenin.

He said at least two bodies appeared to be Palestinian fighters, but of the other three, one 52-year-old man was wearing sandals and appeared to be a civilian, as did another 38-year-old man dressed in ordinary clothing

"What was striking was what was absent. It was inconceivable that there were not large numbers of seriously injured," he said, concluding that they must have been left to bleed to death.

"There must be many more (dead) because we could smell the corpses," Mr Pounder said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"There are fears that law and order in the West Bank has completely broken down"
The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"The UN fact finding team will have to establish whether these deaths were necessary"
Dr Derek Pounder, Amnesty International
"The evidence thus far points to very serious breaches of international law"
See also:

22 Apr 02 | Middle East
Stalemate after West Bank offensive
21 Apr 02 | Middle East
Palestinians flee Bethlehem church
22 Apr 02 | Middle East
Martti Ahtisaari: Trusted diplomat
21 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair urges new Mid-East peace talks
20 Apr 02 | Middle East
Tragedy at Jenin, says US envoy
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Rescue teams join Jenin search
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