- BURQIN, WEST BANK - From
a rocky olive orchard above this West Bank village, Jenin and its refugee
camp seemed placid yesterday. Almost nothing moved. A few Israeli tanks
and armored personnel carriers rumbled along deserted streets. Inside the
camp, two burning buildings sent streams of smoke into a hazy sky.
- But here in Burqin and several other nearby villages,
refugees from Israel's 10-day-old invasion of Jenin and its camp spoke
loudly and incessantly of horrors: a cigarette stubbed out on a man's skin,
five young men executed in plain sight, mass burials by bulldozer.
- Sitting down to relate her story yesterday, Atra Nijmi
looked at a handful of reporters and burst into tears. Her words came in
torrents as well. "They destroyed the house, they killed children
and they killed boys," she said, the "they" being Israeli
- "There's no water, nothing to clean clothes
she continued. "The airplanes bombed, night and day."
- Although Israeli troops withdrew yester- day from 24
villages in the West Bank, they remain in major population centers in their
campaign to root out the "infrastructure of terror." In meetings
in Israel today, Secretary of State Colin Powell was expected to press
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw, but Mr. Sharon has made it clear
the operations will continue until his government determines they are
- The Israelis acknowledge that they have faced bitter
resistance in Jenin's refugee camp - hundreds of armed fighters who used
rifles, grenades, mines, and in one case, a suicide bomber, to fight
advance. But Israeli spokesmen also vehemently deny Palestinian assertions
that a massacre has occurred there.
- The Israeli military said that a final group of
Palestinian fighters surrendered in the camp yesterday morning, apparently
solidifying Israel's control over the area.
- Israeli officials say their soldiers operate with the
utmost concern for civilians they encounter. "Strict orders were
says Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey, the Israeli military's chief spokesman.
back the fire the moment you see or feel civilian families."
- General Kitrey says Palestinian militants "have
chosen deliberately the environment of civilian neighborhoods" to
conduct their battles against Israeli soldiers. But civilians who have
fled the camp say it is Israel that has moved beyond the pale in
what its leaders describe as a war on terror.
- There is no way to corroborate the accounts now emerging
from the Jenin refugee camp, in part because Israel continues to bar
journalists from the area, as well as from many other parts of the West
Bank. Yesterday scores of reporters and television crews sought entry to
Jenin, only to be turned away at Israeli checkpoints ringing the
- Some who made it into the town were detained, and others
found it nearly impossible to work in a situation where they feared arrest
or worse. Michael Keating, a UN official who entered the town and was
entry to the refugee camp, said by telephone that Jenin "is pretty
smashed up - it's much worse than Ramallah."
- That city, the cultural and economic hub of the West
Bank, has been occupied by Israel soldiers since March 29. Israeli forces
control most of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Ramallah
- Mr. Keating said UN and other humanitarian organizations
were hearing reports of "a very traumatized population" in the
Jenin refugee camp. That term aptly describes Ms. Nijmi, who fled the camp
Wednesday afternoon and came to stay in Burqin.
- Nijmi said the Palestinian cause had suffered another
200 "martyrs" in the camp. Israel estimates the Palestinian death
toll at about 100.
- In Israel's reckoning, the Palestinian dead are
who have been killed resisting the advance of Israeli troops. Nijmi
account for the 200, but said she and other bystanders witnessed Israeli
troops executing five unarmed young men on Wednesday morning.
- The young men had hidden in their homes rather than obey
the orders of Israeli soldiers that men and boys come out for questioning.
When the men were eventually discovered, the punishment for disobedience
was death. She said the Israeli soldiers dragged the bodies away.
- Nijmi also said the Israeli soldiers had buried 13 bodies
at a hospital, five at a mosque, and 15 to 20 bodies in mass graves dug
by bulldozers. She said she had heard nothing from her husband and teenage
son since they were taken away by Israeli soldiers on April 3.
- In the village of Rummane, men from the Jenin camp who
have been detained and released by Israeli forces have made the local
their home. Amjad Khazem, a television repairman, holds up his arms as
evidence of his experience.Evidence of brutalities
- Both wrists are encircled with welts and wounds, which
Mr. Khazem says were caused by the plastic manacles Israeli soldiers used
to bind his hands. Other ex-detainees cluster around to tell reporters
about Israeli soldiers battering their way through houses, breaking
for no discernable reason, and using civilians as human shields.
- Detained on April 5, soldiers manacled Khazem, stripped
him to his underwear, and blindfolded him, he says. During repeated
Israeli investigators demanded to know whether he belonged to Hamas, which
has been responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis. Khazem says
he is not a Hamas member, and repeatedly told the Israelis as much.
- Moved from house to house, often kept on buses for hours
at a time, Khazen says there was no food, no water, and no opportunity
for him and his fellow detainees to relieve themselves. Denied access to
a toilet, he said, he had no choice but to urinate on himself.
- In one house, Khazem said he pulled down his blindfold
and saw an Israeli soldier stub a cigarette out on the skin of a detainee
who had ignored an order not to smoke.
- After releasing Khazem on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers left
him at a crossroads outside Jenin, shoeless and still wearing only
For the first and only time in four days, they cut off the manacles.