Are The Israelis
Guilty Of Mass Murder?

By Ben Lynfield and Rory Macmillan in Jenin

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 belief."
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 for vaccines.
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 Fatah movement.
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 my son.í"
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 failed.
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," he said.
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 went in.
Jenin has been without electricity or running water for 16 days
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."
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 identify.
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 law.
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.

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