Sunday, Apr 21, 2002
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
Palestinian girls walk past destroyed buildings in the Jenin refugee camp on Saturday. AFP
Israel has said there will be no constraints on the fact-finding team which is to look into what happened during Israel's military operation in the West Bank town of Jenin. Arab States alleged that Israeli troops massacred Palestinian civilians during the incursion. The United States, which had initially opposed the idea, later threw its weight behind the Security Council plan. Arab States had earlier drafted a measure that called for a formal United Nations investigation into Israeli "massacres" which was shot down.
The White House said the President, George W Bush, backed an investigation into the claims and counter-claims of what happened in Jenin. "He (Mr. Bush) wants the facts to be found. I have not heard the President micromanage who should find those facts, but the President is interested in the bottom line and facts," the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said.
The 15-0 vote in the Council came after the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, told the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, that the Jewish State would welcome a U.N. representative "to clarify the facts" of what happened in the Jenin refugee camp.
"Our hands are clean," Mr. Peres told Mr. Annan. The details of the fact-finding mission are being worked out, including its composition and time frame. It is not clear at this time when the team will leave on its mission.
The Security Council resolution has refrained from using the word "massacre'', but has expressed concern at the "dire humanitarian situation".
It also stressed the need for urgent medical and humanitarian aid. Israel remains adamant that it has committed no wrong. It claimed that its troops went into Jenin to break up a terrorist infrastructure, but the Palestinians and many Arab states see things differently.
"We believe that a serious war crime was committed... that some people will have to be held responsible and brought to justice," the Palestinian envoy to the U.N. said.
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