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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Expert weighs up Jenin 'massacre'
jenin in rubble
Jenin: Palestinians say a massacre took place there
British military expert David Holley tells the BBC why he thinks there was not a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp and why he believes Israel is right to challenge the UN fact-finding mission.

Mr Holley, who is a Major in the British Territorial Army and a military adviser to Amnesty International, visited Jenin at the weekend.

What did you see in Jenin?

"There is an extensive area - about 200 metres (600ft) by about 100 metres (300ft) - that has been completely flattened. It is just like a building site or the aftermath of an earthquake. No houses, just rubble."

So what leads you to the conclusion that there was no massacre?

"I think massacre is a word that is too often used in these sorts of situations and it doesn't really help.

"What we have got here is possibly 54 bodies found so far, with possibly 20 or 30 unaccounted for but we can't really verify these figures until the whole site is cleared.

"Talking to people and talking to witnesses, even very credible witnesses, it just appears there was no wholesale killing.

The bodies are there to be seen

"Clearly the... civilians who died in the battle were caught in crossfire and there have been one or two civilians who were shot and executed."

How do you know they were civilians?

"The bodies are there to be seen. You have children, women, old men and cripples who have lived their lived in wheelchairs so clearly these were not fighters."

What about signs of war crimes?

Water and electricity was cut off to the town. That is a fact, it cannot be denied, and that is a crime

"The hard fact is that water and electricity were cut off to the town. That cannot be denied and that is a crime.

"Another fact is that for nine days no wounded were taken to the hospital, the Israelis blocked it.

"That is a fact, that is a war crime. You cannot stop medical services from administering to the wounded. These are facts we have at the moment that cannot be disputed and need to be investigated.

"Then we have testimonies from witnesses.

"There is no hard evidence, there is no footage for instance, yet. But some very credible witnesses have come forward who have told stories of how they have seen executions.

"They have seen snipers cutting people down in the streets with clear views of civilians trying to get away from the fighting. These are individual killings that need to be investigated."

Why is the Israeli Government objecting to the make-up of the fact-finding team?

"I think Israel has a very valid point. The UN team was going to be made up of UN civil servants, and I think you would then get a very one-sided view of what happened in Jenin.

"I think it is important that you do have military men and anti-terrorist experts on that UN commission.

"I think it is unfair for a lawyer to go to Jenin to then build up a military picture of what happened.

"You do need a soldier's perspective to say, well, this was a close quarter battle in an urban environment, unfortunately soldiers will make mistakes and will throw a hand grenade through the wrong window, will shoot at a twitching curtain, because that is the way war is."

See also:

26 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin tactics under the spotlight
27 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin mission delayed until Sunday
28 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel talks hold up Jenin mission
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