UN envoy appalled by scenes at Jenin refugee camp; Church of the Nativity negotiations called off

Published April 18th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

The devastation of Jenin refugee camp, invaded by the Israel army, is "horrific beyond belief," UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen lamented.  


"It is totally destroyed, it looks like an earthquake has hit it," said Roed-Larsen, visiting the northern West Bank camp with Red Cross and UN workers.  


"It is totally unacceptable and horrific beyond belief," he told AFP.  


"It is totally unacceptable that the government of Israel for 11 days did not allow search and rescue teams to come. This is morally repugnant," said Roed-Larsen, the UN Sepecial Coordiator for the occupied Palestinian territories.  


"I am watching two brothers pull their father from the ruins, the stench of death is horrible. We're seeing a 12-year-old boy being dug out, totally burned.  


"We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquake and they say they have never seen anything like it," he said.  


Larsen said the top priority was to bring in search-and-rescue teams which he said were already on the way but had not yet arrived.  


Earlier, Palestinians dug five survivors from the rubble of the shattered refugee camp in Jenin Thursday and said they had heard others crying out for help, witnesses said.  


"We found five people, who were taken to Jenin hospital in very bad state," resident Naim Awais told Reuters in the camp, hours after Israeli tanks and troops withdrew, leaving snipers on the outskirts.  


"There were two boys, a woman and two men," he said, adding that they appeared to have suffered burns and other injuries. "I have heard many people asking for help, but we can't do anything for them because we have no equipment," he said, as camp residents clawed through rubble with shovels and pickaxes.  


Israel pledged Thursday to withdraw from most West Bank cities by the end of this week but said its forces would besiege Yasser Arafat's compound and Bethlehem's Nativity church until Palestinians inside surrendered. Talks over the fate of armed Palestinians holed up in the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, were called off by the Palestinian negotiating team Thursday.  


Army Radio said that the Palestinians cancelled the meeting with Israeli and American representatives after the Israelis objected to representatives from the European Union also attending the talks.  


Al-Quds newspaper reported Thursday that the Palestinian team, appointed by Arafat, was planning to advance a proposal under which the gunmen would be transferred to the Gaza Strip, at least temporarily.  


Speaking to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network , a member of the Palestinian team, Salah Ta'amri, said there was no way the PA would agree to the gunmen being brought to trial or being deported, as Israel has proposed. 


Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, said on Israel Radio that "creative solutions" would be needed to end the standoffs in Bethlehem and Ramallah and clear the way for a complete withdrawal from all Palestinian-ruled West Bank cities.  


Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported Thursday morning that the Israeli army raided several villages in the West Bank and arrested Palestinians. The Israeli forces raided the village of Sayda, northeast of Tulkarem, and as of Thursday morning were operating there. Two Fatah Tanzim activists were arrested, one from Idnah, west of Nablus, and another from Bayt Ur al-Fawqa, west of Ramallah.  


The occupation troops left the village Silat al-Harithiyah in the Jenin area. Seventeen Palestinians, including several “wanted men,” according to Israeli media reports, were arrested. (Albawaba.com)

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