Israel Again Shuts UN Teams Out of West Bank
Israel Institutes Diplomatic Blockade – UN Teams Shut
First published on
By Selwyn Manning.
World 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
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
"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
here to the United Nations radio
And the United Nations Relief
Chief to the West Bank has expressed concern that aid to
Palestinian people in Nablus and Qalqilya is being
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.
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
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
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