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"The Unbearable Stench Of Death” - Jenin

”The Unbearable Stench Of Death” – Red Cross In Jenin

First published on Spectator.co.nz…

By Selwyn Manning.

A Palestinian
girl is issued with a food pack from an aid worker. Image by
and courtesy of Kev Skvorak, Red Cross workers and independent journalists tonight speak of the horrific destruction of Jenin refugee camp: the unbearable stench of death, continuous sounds of explosions and lack of food and water – this is the result of Israel’s tour of duty: Operation Defensive Shield.

One of the first outsiders to get inside Jenin camp was Independent journalist Kev Skvorak. He writes: “We entered Jenin camp on the morning of the 14th. It was and still is a closed zone, but we didn’t ask permission to go in, and the few soldiers that saw us, did not intervene. The lower portion of the camp appears to be almost completely deserted, except for some wandering chickens and goats, and it looks like every house has been damaged in some way by fire, or tank, or rockets... but most are still standing. Jenin refugee
camp - destroyed by Israeli soldiers - April 2002. Image by 
and courtesy of Kev Skvorak, The destruction in the centre of the camp though is total…a huge area that is nothing but rubble in what was once the densest, most populous, and poorest area of the camp…it was also the area of the strongest resistance in the camp. Estimates from inside the camp varied between 250 – 350 homes demolished, or 450 to 600 families, or something 2000 people with no home at all.

”The soldiers were working on this area with heavy equipment for over a week, demolishing the houses, digging a huge trench, and filling it with debris… This is the area where the horrible stories of people having their houses pushed down on top of them were. We heard theses stories as well from people who had escaped, many who had lost children or other family in the attacks. Some people said they were given a warning and time to flee, others heard no such warning and just found the house collapsing around them as they hid in what they thought was the safest room of the house…most often the one nearest the bottom with no window or escape route.

”None knows the number of dead buried under the debris, but at this point it would take an sifting operation something similar in technique to the efforts at the world trade center to collect all of the bodies and body parts… everything that is under there has been crushed to small pieces by the 70 ton Macerva tanks. Total numbers of dead inside the camp range from 200 to 500. No one really has any realistic idea yet and no one here knows how many where removed by the Israelis, but witnesses in the camp saw at least two large refrigerated semi trailers in the camp, and the UN aid people here maintain it is a relatively open secret that the Israelis maintain an “enemies” graveyard in the Jordan valley for events like this.”

April 2002 - A
dead Palestinian lies today decomposing in Jenin refugee
camp. Image by  and courtesy of Kev Skvorak, Skvorak writes: "We were taken to photograph many more martyrs today..I unfortunately even stepped on/in one. Lot’s of body parts, and crushed laying around... a foot, or a hand mioghtbe recognizable, but mostly the people are recognized by the damp and discolored clothes sticking out of the ground..mostly connected to just bit’s of tissue and bone. Difficult to photograph."

The Red Cross also gives an eyewitness account:"We were allowed into a very small section of the camp,” Khaldoun Uweis of the Palestine Red Crescent Society said. "This is unbelievable. At least 75 per cent of the camp has been destroyed, houses were demolished turning alleys into wide streets to allow tanks to roll through them."

The Israeli Defense Force has been in Jenin for 14 days. Some eyewitnesses report tonight that the soldiers are slowly preparing to move out.

Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations have been trying to help wounded and bereft people for six days. Medical teams were escorted in on Tuesday [New Zealand time] by the Israeli army into a small part of the camp. Movement was restricted.

Speaking from inside Jenin Refugee Camp, Amnesty International delegate Javier Zuniga said, "This is one of the worst scenes of devastation I have ever witnessed. It is almost impossible to conceive that what was once a town is now a lunar landscape. There is a real possibility that people are still alive under the rubble of their former homes, one of our colleagues from a local human rights organisation received a phone call from a family of 10 trapped below ground and asking for help, yet there is no evidence of concerted efforts to search for and rescue survivors."

Red Cross is calling for international search and rescue teams to be sent to the camp to help remove bodies from bulldozed buildings and hunt for possible survivors after residents reported hearing cries.

Many bodies cannot be pulled out of the rubble due to risks of further structural collapse. "Many of the buildings are not stable," Shene Dabrowski, a Canadian ICRC rescuer, said on a phone to Red Cross headquarters: "We need unexploded ordinance teams and urban search and rescue teams to help us dig out bodies from under the rubble. We don't have proper equipment. We don't even have helmets."

Dabrowski spoke of highly trained teams of experts with the knowledge and expertise to deal with extreme danger the collapsed and unstable buildings might pose to rescuers. "Specialist rescue teams are needed here," he said.

Explosions could still be heard inside the camp. And the army has restricted movement so severely that the teams were able to see no more than a tiny part of the camp. Judging from the extent of the structural damage I am expecting to find many more dead under the rubble," Dabrowski said.

The European Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference from Berlin issued a statement expressing shock at "the horrific consequences of the present conflict on the civilian population."

It described the repeated attacks against relief workers, hospitals, buildings or vehicles carrying out humanitarian work as "flagrant violations of International Humanitarian Law" and expressed profound concern regarding "blockades that prevent humanitarian workers from reaching those in need of assistance."

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said troops would leave the cities of Nablus, Jenin and parts of Ramallah by Sunday but would remain around Arafat's compound and the Church of the Nativity until a standoff with militants was resolved.

"It should be clear that we will not be able to leave the area of Bethlehem and the Mukata (Arafat's Ramallah compound) where there are terrorists being hidden until the terrorists are handed over to us," Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio.

At least 1,278 Palestinians and 452 Israelis have been killed since Palestinians rose up against Israeli occupation in much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000 after negotiations on a final peace treaty stalled.

International aid agencies have been urgently demanding more access to Jenin refugee camp, many of whose 13,000 residents lost their homes to Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

The camp suffered heavy casualties that included 23 Israeli dead and many more Palestinians, some of whom may be under mountains of rubble in the levelled main square. Red Cross’ Dr. Hossam Sharkawi, said: "The situation is very hazardous, bodies are strewn around, some already decomposing." Dabrowski added: “The situation continues to unfold. No one knows exactly the extent of the death and the destruction in the camp.
First published on Spectator.co.nz…
By Selwyn Manning.

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