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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Jenin rises from the dirt

By Ken Lee
In Jenin, West Bank

Bulldozer at work in Jenin as family walks past
The logistics of rebuilding Jenin have proved daunting

Fourteen months on, Jenin refugee camp still bears the scars of the 12-day operation by Israeli forces that laid siege to Palestinian militants who put up fierce resistance here.

Dry, compacted dirt, spread across a bumpy incline roughly the size of a football field, are all that remains now of about 200 concrete-block Palestinian homes.

Ten percent of the camp, which in total houses approximately 13,000 refugees, was virtually rubbed out by a dozen armoured Israeli bulldozers.

The action was in retribution for a Passover suicide bombing in Netanya, which claimed the lives of 28 Israelis in March last year.

Many hurdles

The first tangible signs of healing emerged a week ago with the laying of the foundations of five new buildings - the start of the reconstruction of the camp under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unwra).

The camp is our body and soul... [but] even thought it is rebuilt, I will still go to bed in sorrow, and wake up in sorrow
Grocer Adnan Hassan
"I'm giddy with happiness at the thought of having a new home," says Fiday Yihye, a mother of four, whose family evacuated barefoot under heavy fire on the sixth day of fighting.

"But all of us live in fear that Israel can destroy them again at any moment," she adds.

The $27m project, funded by a single, private donor from the United Arab Emirates, was fraught with hurdles - from repeat Israeli incursions to the sheer logistics of repopulating nearly 2,000 displaced individuals, project manager Paul Wolstenholme said.

Just clearing the 290,000 cubic feet (82,000 cubic metres) of rubble took about six months.

As part of the process, a Swedish bomb disposal team removed 4,000 bullets, grenades and other live explosives, Mr Wolstenholme added.

Permanent scars

The most unforeseen setback was the killing of Mr Wolstenholme's predecessor and co-worker Ian Hook, a British national, by Israeli gunfire at an Unwra compound here in November.

Palestinian girls salvage belongings from devastated homes in Jenin
The battle of Jenin caused international outcry

The army claimed it mistook Mr Hook's cell phone for a weapon.

Completion of Jenin's 480 new homes, small commercial units and youth and community facilities is set for around September 2004.

Still, some scars prove to be permanent.

"The camp is our body and soul," explains grocer Adnan Hassan, who says his home was rocketed by an Apache gunship.

"Even though it is rebuilt, I will still go to bed in sorrow, and wake up in sorrow.

"You cannot find one happy person here, everyone has a family member dead or in an Israeli prison."

'Martyrs' capital'

The battle of Jenin sparked international outcry.

Charges of war crimes committed by Israel were made, while Palestinian authorities made unsubstantiated claims of a wide-scale massacre.

Ensnarled in house-to-house fighting, 23 Israeli commandos were killed, while 59 Palestinians died, up to half of whom may have been civilians, according to a UN report.

Known among Palestinians as the "Martyrs' Capital," at least 28 suicide bombers, by Israel's count, have been dispatched from the camp's squalid alleyways since the outbreak of the current intifada.


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