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.
Israel declared the camp -- which it said was a hotbed of Palestinian militancy
-- a closed military zone when it invaded on April 3, and refused to allow aid
groups or media in afterwards, except for in small groups accompanied by the army.
It said that unexploded bombs and booby traps made it too dangerous to allow
Larsen denounced that argument, saying Israel could have allowed in international
experts to help clear the area and search for possible survivors trapped in the
"That is no excuse," he said.
"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.
The only rescue efforts currently underway were local residents digging though
the ruins of their homes and looking for survivors.
Larsen said such efforts jeopardised the safety of the desperate diggers, working
close to buildings that were in danger of collapse.
He said his organisation would try to find out exactly what happened in the
week-long fight in the camp, as the Israeli army moved in to hunt down Palestinian
The Palestinians call the army operation a "massacre" which killed hundreds
of people, some of them allegedly executed after surrendering.
Israel says that dozens rather than hundreds of Palestinians died, pointing
to the fact that its army lost 23 soldiers -- 14 in one day -- as evidence that
the camp was the scene of heavy house-to-house fighting which took its toll on
both the Palestinians and its own forces.
Copyright 2002 AFP