- They left as departing heroes, waving victory salutes
and grinning as they went. But even as Israelís forces pulled out
of the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank, relief workers were claiming
the carnage and destruction left behind was like an earthquake.
- They spoke of a war crime on the scale of the Bosnia
and Kosovo wars.
- The United Nations, allowed access after 12 days during
which ambulances were turned away and scores of injured bleed to death,
struggled to find words to describe the devastation.
- Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN special envoy, said simply:
"We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes
and they say they have never seen anything like it. It is horrifying beyond
- The UN was at last beginning to extract the corpses and
search for survivors beneath the rubble, as well as provide food, water
and shelter to camp residents. Its officials were unable to bring to mind
a time when they had been so obstructed as they had been by the Israelis.
- Peter Hansen, head of the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency , who had served in the Balkans, said: "I and my colleagues
working in crisis situations for decades do not recall a situation where
co-operation from the authorities has been less than what we have experienced
from the Israeli government. It is beyond any human decency to let ambulances,
food and water stand outside the camp, as has been the case."
- Mr Hansen said soldiers had shot up the UN clinic in
the camp. Destroyed, along with everything else, was a storage container
- He was shaken by what he had seen: "I today have
seen decomposed bodies dug out. One was an 11-year-old child, judging from
the size of his rib-cage."
- In a sense, what Mr Hansen was seeing was the logical
outcome of the vow by the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to "wipe out
the last terror cell" in the West Bank. He made similar comments as
defence minister before the 1982 Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres.
- The West Bank offensive, planned for months, was launched
after a series of devastating terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings,
in busy Israeli street. Most were carried out by Yasser Arafatís
- Since the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, against
Israeli occupation began 20 months ago, almost 2,000 people have died -
at last count 1,508 Palestinians, and 468 Israelis.
- The exact number to be added because of events in Jenin
might never be known.
- On Wednesday, as outside agencies were again allowed
into Jenin, medical workers removed the charred body of an old woman from
the top floor of a building. At one point, the corpse slipped out of its
blanket and on to the road. Children watching nearby began to scream.
- Body parts lay along the side of one alley. Flies and
worms crawled on one corpse, before Palestinian Red Crescent workers placed
the pieces into a white plastic bag and loaded them on to a trailer.
- Rory Macmillan, a Scottish lawyer and member of an international
volunteer team that hoped its presence would mitigate against such atrocities,
saw the horror at first hand: "A 15-year-old boy stumbled by me howling,
his hand destroyed, trailing blood and his hysterical mother. He had overturned
one of many explosives that are still lying around.
- "No camera frame is wide enough to capture the scale
and awfulness of what has happened in the Jenin Refugee Camp. It is far
worse than the TV pictures. Bodies are crawling with maggots. People are
still finding corpses or bits of bodies. Many lie buried under the rubble
that was their homes.
- "We carried food, water and nappies, searching for
the medical centre that people were too dazed to tell us where it was.
One woman wailed, ëI donít want to drink or eat. I just want
- The UN is mobilising rescue teams to see if anyone is
still alive beneath the rubble. "We have to follow the faintest hope,
but the hope is faint," Mr Hansen said.
- The Israeli army prides itself on its teams that rescue
people from rubble. It dispatched them to Turkey after an earthquake and
to Kenya when the US embassy was blown up by Osama bin Ladenís al-Qaeda
group. Jenin, it seems, was a disaster too far. The army says the entire
camp is booby-trapped. This is a lie, recent visitors say.
- Last night, international condemnation of Israeli action
in Jenin was mounting.
- The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, called for an investigation
into the onslaught.
- Speaking at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva,
Mr Straw said the Israeli forces appeared to have used "excessive
and disproportionate" force.
- "Such is the scale of the evidence that there is
a strong case for Israel to answer," he added.
- The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, appealed for the
deployment of an international armed force in Palestinian areas as the
only way to stop the bloodletting. He urged the UN Security Council to
pursue the option of a "robust" force, often advocated by Palestinians,
rather than wait for an invitation from Israel.
- In the US, President George Bush said Israel was keeping
his promise to withdraw from Palestinian areas and was on schedule. "He
gave me a timetable and he met the timetable," Mr Bush said, dismissing
assessments that the mission of his secretary of state, Colin Powell, had
- Arab states are certain to step up criticism of the US
for failing to take a strong enough line against the incursions and effectively
offering Mr Sharon carte blanche to do it again.
- An Israeli colonel, identified only as Didi, who commanded
troops in the camp, said soldiers were still surrounding it. They had spent
the last few days "going from house to house, searching for weapons,
suspects and corpses. We did not find a lot of bodies in the houses. We
found a terrorist who was wounded by our fire and was trapped. He was alive,"
- Summing up the operation, He told state-run Israel Radio:
"We have given the terrorists a very serious blow. There was a difficult
battle, we lost many fighters, the camp was totally fortified.
- "Until now we have taken out 25 bodies. We think
there are 80-100 bodies, most if not all of them terrorists. Many of the
fatalities among our soldiers were because we behaved as the most moral
army in the world and the most careful army in the world. But this is war."
- Haaretz newspaper yesterday quoted an army officer as
admitting that troops had forced Palestinian civilians at gunpoint to handle
items the troops feared were booby-trapped, a violation of the Geneva Convention.
- That confirmed claims by Palestinian survivors. The Israeli
human rights group Bítselem and survivors have accused the army
of demolishing houses with civilians inside. Israel says soldiers had called
over megaphones urging people to leave their houses before the bulldozers
- Jenin has been without electricity or running water for
- Most of the families in the camp came from the Haifa
area when Israel was established in 1948. They are refugees twice over
now that their homes are destroyed.
- "We dream of returning to our land," said Mohammed,
as we knelt in what used to be a street. "We will win in the end -
because we are right."
- EYEWITNESS: DEATH AND DESTRUCTION EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK
- THE first, and most unforgettable, thing that I noticed
as I walked through the refugee camp in Jenin was an overpowering smell
of rotting human flesh, writes Derrick Pounder.
- As we walked past the medical compound, set in the foothills
that overlook Jenin, we could see buildings riddled with bullet holes or
the evidence of structural damage caused by shelling.
- Further on, in the middle of the camp, which houses more
than 13,000 people, we saw a scene of untold destruction.
- What was before us easily paralleled anything I had witnessed
while working as a forensic expert in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya,
after the Russian offensive.
- Jeninís grey and pastel-shaded Mediterranean-style
flats had been flattened by systematic shelling from ground artillery and
Apache military helicopters.
- As we walked over this part of the camp, which is about
the size of a football pitch, we realised the path we were on was in reality
the rubble of buildings which had probably been 30-40ft tall. Now, these
once densely-populated flats were only the height of single-storey dwellings.
- As yet, there are no official figures for the dead, but
at the last count, 21 bodies had been found from the camp. The level of
destruction we saw was totally inconsistent with this figure.
- We could smell the dead underneath us as we walked. Whether
these people died immediately from the bombing, or gradually as a result
of their injuries, will probably never be fully known. But what is for
sure is that the Tel Aviv-controlled forces have some of the most sophisticated
search and rescue capabilities that can be found in this part of the world.
None of this was put into action.
- Back in the hospital, five bodies arrived that afternoon
which we were able to examine. All of these were men and we helped identify
them. There were two more unnamed ones buried near a makeshift building
site in the compoundís grounds. These we exhumed and were able to
- However, there were a further 14 corpses buried there
before we arrived. All these had been named so, in accordance with Muslim
custom, we did not exhume them.
- We did, though, see lists of who they were: one of the
dead was an elderly woman while another was a man over 50. Neither of these
were obvious combatants.
- What was also significant was that here were no gravely
injured people. In a war scenario, you would usually expect about three
gravely injured people to every one dead.
- But, during the campaign, the Red Cross were kept out
and no medical aid could reach the wounded - a serious flouting of international
- As we talked to eyewitnesses, we were told what had happened
once the Israelis had taken over the compound. Women, children and men
over 50 - and therefore of non-combatant age - were separated out and sent
to the mosque.
- Men of fighting age were taken away from the compound,
stripped to their underpants and then handcuffed with plastic cable ties.
They were kept like this for one or two hours without food or water.
- Many were then made to sit down on their haunches with
their heads between their knees for a long period and some were beaten
with rifle-butts or kicked when the soldiers felt like striking out.
- They were then interrogated and their identification
documentation was taken away from them. Once the Israelis decided they
werenít Palestinian fighters, they were released on a country road;
still in just their underpants and told to make their way to the nearest
village for help.
- Derrick Pounder, professor of forensic medicine at the
University of Dundee, is on a mission to the West Bank with Amnesty International.