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Israel Delays Cooperation on UN Jenin Probe - 2002-04-30


Top Israeli cabinet officials have decided that Israel will not cooperate for the time being with a United Nations fact-finding investigation into fierce fighting in the Jenin refugee camp.

In a brief statement, cabinet ministers have said they will not cooperate for now with the U.N. mission appointed to look into the bloody fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the Jenin refugee camp.

Israel has delayed the arrival of the fact-finding group, saying its demands concerning the mandate and composition of the team have not been met.

The statement said, "Israel raised a number of issues with the United Nations that are vital for conducting a fair inquiry. As long as these conditions have not been met, there is no possibility to start the review."

Israeli officials initially agreed to the investigation, but later withdrew their support because of concern the U.N. mission would focus on the destruction in Jenin and ignore Israel's contention that the camp was a haven for terrorists.

Israel was also concerned that anyone testifying before the U.N. team could be prosecuted in the future.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo denounced the Israeli decision. Mr. Abed Rabbo said, "The decision, in itself, is a war crime against the Palestinian people."

"The United Nations has to say whether it is willing to implement its own resolutions or it is willing to submit to the pressure of the Israeli government. In this case there will be a lack of confidence and even more, confidence will be lost, in all of the United Nations and the Security Council," he said.

Israel says 23 suicide bombers responsible for killing dozens of Israelis came from the Jenin camp.

Earlier this month Israeli tanks and troops launched a major incursion into the refugee camp, and used armored bulldozers to flatten many homes there. Thousands of Palestinians were left homeless after the fighting.

The Palestinians charge that hundreds of civilians were killed in Jenin, a claim Israel strongly denies. Israel has said about 50 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, where killed during the fighting in Jenin.

The army says Palestinian militants killed 23 Israeli soldiers during the battle.

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