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Israel Again Shuts UN Teams Out of West Bank

Israel Institutes Diplomatic Blockade – UN Teams Shut Out Again

First published on…

By Selwyn Manning.

Jenin Refugee
CampWorld Health Organisation experts have been prevented from entering Jenin refugee camp – access was blocked by Israeli soldiers. And Israel has changed its mind again, this time blocking a UN fact-finding team from entering Israel and the Palestinian territories after granting it access only yesterday.

The Israeli Government stated this morning that the team's terms of reference violate agreements between Israel and the UN about the inquiry and that those chosen to lead the mission were political appointments, and not from a military background as Israel had requested. Also, the appointments were made without consultation with Israel, as had been agreed. Israeli Government states the mission's arrival would be delayed until the problem is solved. Israeli Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar earlier said on Israel TV that his Government would not cooperate with the mission if it operates beyond its mandate: “We will insist that whatever happens ... will take place according to the agreed upon parameters." Saar said.

The fact-finding team was brokered between UN Secretary General Koffi Annan and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Perez. Initially Israel ruled out allowing the team to the West Bank, but then changed its mind after the United States applied backroom pressure. But this morning Israel again swerved away from allowing the official team in stating members of the team would be biased against Israel when gathering information.

Also this morning a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) were to assess conditions and need inside Jenin Camp in preparation for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people held there. The WHO's coordinator of West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Angelo Stefanini, said when he went to Jenin he could not access the camp. But he told reporters that he saw from a distance the government hospital was still surrounded by Israeli tanks.

"My experience is that although you may have clearance from the highest echelons of the hierarchy then when you reach the checkpoint you may still find problems because of their different channels of responsibility so there are still problems of moving around."

Listen here to the United Nations radio report...

And the United Nations Relief Chief to the West Bank has expressed concern that aid to Palestinian people in Nablus and Qalqilya is being prevented.

The UN’s relief Commissioner-General Peter Hansen visited Nablus in the West Bank this morning and expressed concern at the destruction of the Old City there. Hansen also protested this morning to the Israeli authorities that 75 tons of food aid was prevented from being delivered to Qalqilya.

In Jenin, rescue teams from Britain, France and Switzerland are on the ground to look for any survivors under the rubble. And the United States has delivered 800 tents for displaced Palestinians. The tents arrived last night and a site for them is being organized in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and the UN relief agency UNRWA.

Meanwhile the head of the UN fact-finding team to Jenin says he's already started working. Former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, told reporters he's already met with his military adviser - retired general William Nash at UN headquarters. He was leaving New York this morning for Geneva to meet with the rest of the UN team before travelling to the Middle East. Ahtisaari said his mission would need to consider factors considerably wider than those inside Jenin camp.

"I have been asked to look into the whole Jenin question. What that work will require, I will do whatever is needed. And what I think is more important at this moment is that we have been assured of full cooperation of the Israeli authorities."

The fact-finding mission mandated by the Security Council to develop accurate information regarding recent events at the Jenin refugee camp was expected to be in the Middle East by the end of this week.

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© Spectator News Agency, Multimedia Investments Limited, 2002.

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