United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has suggested sending a large, armed, multi-national force to Palestinian areas to stave off further violence in the area.
The secretary-general says the objectives of an international force would be to monitor a cease-fire and supervise the withdrawal of Israeli troops. The force would also make the Palestinian areas secure enough for peace negotiations and a return of normal economic activity.
Mr. Annan believes the force should be robust enough to be credible, and it should be large enough to carry out its tasks. "The parties left to themselves cannot resolve their differences," he said. "And it is important that the international community engages actively and effectively to assist them. And we have to do it both on the political front and to take steps on the ground to stop the bloodletting, which has been going on for so long."
The secretary-general believes it is in the interests of both sides to allow the deployment. Israel has long opposed an international force.
The force would be, as Mr. Annan puts it, a coalition of the willing. Governments would volunteer troops.
The proposal is now before the Security Council. The secretary-general wants the Council to authorize it under a section of the U.N. Charter that would permit the force to be sufficiently armed and take enforcement action if necessary.
Meanwhile, Mr. Annan called on Israel to urgently lift its curfew in the Jenin refugee camp and allow humanitarian workers full access.
Mr. Annan says his representatives in the area report the damage is massive and people are digging out bodies with their bare hands.
Palestinians have called the Israeli operation in Jenin a massacre that killed hundreds of their people. Israel disputes the number, putting it at dozens of Palestinian casualties, along with about 23 Israeli soldiers.