- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan abandoned efforts last night to send an international team to investigate the battle last month in the Jenin refugee camp, blaming his decision on Israel's refusal to cooperate with the mission.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Annan said the team would be disbanded today. The council remained in session until late last night, discussing the Middle East.
Mr. Annan said, "The long shadow cast by recent events in the Jenin refugee camp will remain. It will become more and more difficult to establish with any confidence or accuracy the recent events that took place there."
"We regret that it didn't work out the arrangements for the mission together," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"We will be talking this evening to the other members of the Security Council about where we go from here."
Kadoura Mousa Kadoura, director of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement for the northern West Bank, told The Washington Times on Tuesday that after receiving a report from four Palestinian-appointed investigators, he no longer believed there had been a massacre at the camp. He produced a list of 56 persons known to have died in Jenin.
Latest reports have placed the casualty figure at about 50.
Israeli spokesman Dore Gold last night welcomed the decision to call off the probe, saying it had been called for in the first place because of the "lie" that some 500 people had been massacred there.
"We now know that the figure was about one-tenth of that," he said on CNN, speaking from Jerusalem. "So the entire motivation [for an investigation] doesn't exist anymore."
But Palestinian officials in Washington insisted there still was a need for a probe.
"Those missing or not accounted for are in the hundreds," said Hassan Abel Rahman, the Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington. "Those missing may be dead or alive. It's too early to come to conclusions on the numbers."
U.N. officials also said there was still a need for a thorough investigation.
"The mission was never about a body count they were not going to count bodies," said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq in New York.
Mr. Rahman said he still believed that Israel "committed war crimes" in the camp. Israeli forces used helicopters on civilian targets, demolished houses and did not allow medical assistance to wounded Palestinians, he said.
Israel has denied the charges and says it tried to spare civilians. It notes that it lost 23 soldiers in the fighting because it declined to use artillery or air strikes.
It also said it blocked ambulances in part because of the discovery of explosives inside one ambulance. Mr. Rahman said he believes Israel had "planted them."
Even before Mr. Annan announced his decision, Israeli officials made clear they were prepared to weather the storm of international criticism.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Sofer said his country was unfazed by the introduction of a Security Council resolution yesterday by Arab members, led by Syria and Tunisia. The measure called for undefined measures against Israel if it failed to cooperate with the inquiry.
"I think this is part and parcel of the hypocrisy, the singling out, we face in some of these international bodies," Mr. Sofer said.
The United States has opposed the resolution, drafted under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which allows for sanctions. Mr. Sofer said he hoped Washington would exercise its veto in the event of a vote.
Earlier yesterday, the State Department refused to press Israel to go along with the U.N. inquiry even though its U.N. delegation voted for the resolution that authorized it. Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration hoped "to see if arrangements can't be worked out" to allow the mission to go forward.
"We do continue to believe it's important to determine the facts," he said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said last week that he had not seen evidence of a massacre, and Mr. Boucher said yesterday that there were no "indications" that war crimes took place.
But several Western diplomats have warned Israel that its failure to admit the U.N. mission would perpetuate the "myth of the massacre."
In Geneva, the 24 members of the U.N. team named to investigate events in Jenin were to be sent home today, Mr. Annan said.
The commission was headed by three principal members who would have signed any report, though all team members would have contributed to it, a spokesman said.
The principal members were former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Red Cross chief Cornelio Sommaruga and former U.N. chief of refugees Sadako Ogata.
Additional staff included military and terrorism experts demanded by Israel, such as retired U.S. Gen. Bill Nash, retired Irish National Police Gen. Peter Fitzgerald, Danish legal adviser Tyge Lehmann and Dr. Helena Ranta, an expert in forensic medicine.
Asked whether the team also intended to examine Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist activity against Israel that sparked the retaliatory incursion last month, the U.N. official said it would.
"Our mandate is to look into events that occurred in Jenin refugee camp," he said. "We will look at all events, humanitarian, military and police. We would be looking at the situation before, during and after the Israeli military incursion."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide