- JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West
Bank (Reuters) - Israeli tanks fired heavy machineguns inside Jenin's refugee
camp on Wednesday and the army warned residents combing the rubble of their
homes that a curfew remained in force.
- Earlier, witnesses in Jenin had said about 50 Israeli
tanks had left the camp and the surrounding West Bank town, two days after
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had said the army would pull out "in
a couple of days."
- It was not immediately clear what had prompted the tanks
still in Jenin to open fire in the camp's smashed streets.
- Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of Palestinians had
poured back into the refugee quarter from the town, many of them residents
who had fled fierce fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants
that abated at the weekend.
- Although a general curfew has prevailed for over a week,
it appeared not to have been strictly applied in parts of the town and
camp over the past three days, with many more people on the streets and
even some local cars moving around.
- Before Wednesday's tank shooting started, civilian medics
had been digging in the rubble that was once the camp's main square, uncovering
what looked like a large human bone.
- When the tanks opened up, the medics hurriedly covered
up what they had found with boards and fled into a nearby alley.
- Witnesses said earlier residents were returning to the
camp in vehicles and on foot despite a curfew in a "closed military
zone" still off limits to outsiders apart from some army-escorted
- Around 50 tanks had pulled out of Jenin by late afternoon,
leaving via two checkpoints, but some tanks remained hunkered down at vantage
points to the northwest, witnesses reported.
- The Israeli army had no immediate comment. It was not
clear if troops were withdrawing from the northern West Bank town or just
redeploying or rotating, but a spokesman confirmed the area remained a
closed military zone.
- POWELL FAILS TO WIN CEASEFIRE
- Secretary of State Colin Powell left the region on Wednesday
without achieving an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire or a complete Israeli
withdrawal from the West Bank that might set the stage for renewed peace
talks after 18 months of violence.
- Sharon said Monday that troops would leave Jenin in a
couple of days, and the West Bank's largest city Nablus, which also saw
heavy fighting, within a week, but would remain nearby.
- Palestinians say hundreds among the camp's 13,000 civilians
were "massacred" by the army in its incursion, part of a sweep
into West Bank towns in a declared crackdown on Palestinian militants behind
suicide bombings in Israel.
- The Israeli government has denied the massacre allegations,
saying the majority of Palestinian casualties in Jenin were militants who
used houses in the camp as cover to ambush Israeli forces, and booby-trapped
many of the buildings.
- At least a score of decomposing bodies lay uncollected
amid crumpled masonry or in buildings where they fell during the Israeli
incursion. Palestinians say many more lie under mountains of rubble around
the main square. The army concedes more bodies may be there.
- Zuher Manasra, the Palestinian governor of Jenin, said
Palestinian ambulances had collected five bodies Wednesday with army permission
and brought them to the main hospital.
- That brought to 20 the number of corpses removed by the
Palestinian Red Crescent Society after it gained limited access to the
camp under Israeli army escort. Fifteen have been buried temporarily in
the garden of the hospital.
- A large swathe of the camp's crude concrete housing and
network of lanes was wrecked or damaged by the fighting. Its central square
resembles an earthquake zone after being shelled and bulldozed in a tactic
the army says was designed to kill militants who refused to surrender,
and to bury booby traps.
- Israel also used its armored bulldozers to tear passages
for tanks through narrow alleys during the fighting.
- Powell Tuesday urged Israel to give humanitarian groups
"unimpeded access" to Palestinian areas.
- Israel says humanitarian supplies have been allowed into
Jenin and other West Bank areas in coordination with the army.
- International relief agencies say access remains severely
restricted and a humanitarian emergency looms from a shortage of food,
water and proper shelter, as well as exposure to decomposing corpses which
pose a risk of epidemic.
- Palestinians rose up in September 2000 against Israeli
occupation of much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.