From firstname.lastname@example.org Sat May 4 14:00:05 2002
Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics)
Subject: Human Rights Watch report on Jenin/ Dick Armey
Telegraph reports onJenin/Bush undercuts Powell, again!/Afghan
Date: Sat, 4 May 2002 13:31:49 -0400
A GROWING body of evidence suggests that the Israeli army has a case to answer for war crimes in its assault on the Jenin refugee camp, but human rights experts say there is no evidence of a massacre.
The evidence focuses on the use of civilian Palestinians as human shields, the prevention of medical assistance to the wounded, and destruction of 140 refugee homes.
Its report says 52 Palestinians died, including 22 civilians, among them children, the disabled and the elderly. Among the dead were Kamal Zgheir, a wheelchair-bound man shot and run over by a tank, even though he was showing a white flag.
Palestinians and human rights groups are calling for the United Nations to establish the facts. But it appears that this will never happen.
Worried about war crimes prosecutions, the government of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, has derailed a proposed UN fact-finding team. The government had insisted on immunity for soldiers and on vetting the witness list and wanted the team to focus on the causes of the assault, rather than the effects.
Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who was to head the
team, said yesterday:
I never took seriously their objections on
the make-up of the mission.
I don't want to think that there may be something to hide; that's
not my job. But there's always a suspicion.
In the latest attempt to mythologise the battle, the Palestinian
leader, Yasser Arafat, refers to it as
Jeningrad - likening it
to Stalingrad, the Second World War watershed.
Yet even so there are uncomfortable facts for the Israeli army, and no chance that the two conflicting narratives will be reconciled.
For the army the key issue is the cause of its assault. It was launched after a suicide bomber - not from Jenin - blew himself up on April 3 in a hotel as Israelis sat down to their Passover meal, one of the most sacred dates in the Jewish calendar. Twenty-eight people, mainly elderly, died.
The army says it found bomb-making equipment in the Jenin camp, including ball-bearings to increase destructive power. It plays down the levelling of the Hawarish quarter, leaving 4,000 homeless, saying the flattened area it was no more than 10 per cent of the camp.
But Human Rights Watch said:
The presence of armed militants in the
camp does not detract from the Israeli army's obligation under
international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to
avoid harm to civilians.
Armoured bulldozers were used with particular ferocity. At first they were used to force a path for military vehicles through the narrow alleys. But when the battle was over, they went out to flatten one district in what can only be a punitive message.
The army claims that it destroyed the houses because they were booby-trapped. But it is far harder and more dangerous to de-mine a mound of impacted rubble than a standing house.
There have been hundreds of unlawful killings by the Israeli army
during the 19 months of the Palestinian uprising, and this is true of
the Jenin camp too, said Elizabeth Hodgkin, researcher for Amnesty
But we would also like to focus on the wanton destruction of
property without military necessity, and the blocking of medical and
humanitarian aid, grave violations of the Geneva Convention.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey issued the statement below following his appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews:
In my exchange with Chris Matthews tonight, I left the impression
that I believe peaceful Palestinian civilians should be forcibly
expelled from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This does not reflect my
views. I was merely trying to convey my strong belief that Israel
should yield no further territory until its security is assured and
that the individuals who support terrorist acts may properly be exiled
from the area.
Let me be clear. Israel is fighting the same war on terrorism that
we are fighting. I reaffirm my support for their right to defend
themselves and secure their peace and security.