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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Jenin tactics under the spotlight
Recovery work continues in Jenin
One of the main tasks for the United Nations investigation into the Israeli army's assault on the Jenin refugee camp will be to evaluate bitterly conflicting accounts of what took place.

The Israelis say their incursion in Jenin earlier in April was part of their military operation to destroy "terrorist cells".

Palestinians have charged that during their eight-day occupation of the camp, Israeli forces:

  • Indiscriminately fired on civilians, killing hundreds of people
  • Used armoured bulldozers to flatten houses without verifying whether there was anyone inside
  • Carried out between 60 and 70 summary executions
  • Used Palestinian civilians as human shields during house-to house searches.
  • Prevented medics from treating the wounded

Israel has strongly rejected all of these allegations, and instead blamed Palestinian militants for endangering civilians by using crude rockets and bombs, and setting numerous booby traps.

Jenin hospital officials have said that 45 bodies have been recovered, but believe more are likely to be found amid the ruins of the camp.

Twenty-three Israeli soldiers died during the fighting.

Israel says the majority of those killed were armed Palestinian fighters.

An IDF spokesman has described Jenin as "the capital of the Palestinian suicide terrorists".

According to a military spokesman, repeated warnings were broadcast in Arabic offering civilians safe passage out of the battle zone.

Independent verification of the claims of both sides has been impossible.

The army prevented anyone - including medics, aid workers and journalists - from entering Jenin in the immediate aftermath of the fighting.

'No other way'

In a statement, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "Jenin [was] the site of a fierce battle with armed terrorists, who had deliberately hidden themselves amongst the civilian population."

The IDF did its utmost to avoid harming innocent civilians, and its record is clean

Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister

Many buildings were demolished in the town because they had been wired with explosives, he added.

"There wasn't a house that wasn't booby trapped," he said. "There was no way to neutralise the danger without demolishing the structure."

"We also encountered booby-trapped men ... Palestinians who raised their hands to surrender while wearing explosive vests, in an attempt to detonate themselves among our soldiers," he said.

Aerial images show the devastated camp

"The IDF did its utmost to avoid harming innocent civilians, and its record is clean in this matter," he added.

On Thursday an Israeli sergeant involved in fighting in the heart of Jenin told the Washington Times that charges of a massacre were "not true".

However the soldier, who spoke to the paper anonymously, revealed that his unit had received orders to fire even if they could not see their targets.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Jenin
"Israel have probably got to let the UN to come here"
See also:

26 Apr 02 | Middle East
UN Jenin mission 'on schedule'
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Zeevi dispute unresolved
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's tactics become clearer
30 Mar 02 | Middle East
Inside Arafat's compound
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
No breakthrough in Bethlehem talks
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Mubarak denounces Israel
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Hamas bans children's 'sacrifices'
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Church with a turbulent history
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