The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously late Friday to send a fact-finding mission to Jenin to assess the impact of an Israeli assault on the West Bank refugee camp. The resolution was drafted by the United States, after Washington said it would veto an earlier resolution submitted by Arab governments.
The resolution calls on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to organize the fact-finding mission. It also expresses concern for Palestinian civilians and stresses the urgent need for humanitarian and medical aid in the Jenin area.
The breakthrough on sending the mission came after Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres telephoned the Secretary-General from Washington, and said a U.N. team would be welcome, provided it is an impartial one.
U.S. ambassador John Negroponte said he is confident the Secretary-General will find the best way to determine the facts. "It is important to have the facts with respect to what has happened in Jenin. In passing this resolution, the Security Council has also signaled at this time a key matter of concern for all of us is the issue of humanitarian access for the population affected by the recent fighting," he said.
Israel disputes the number of casualties given by the Palestinians. The Israelis say several dozen, not hundreds, of Palestinians died in Jenin, and they were mostly militant fighters, not civilians.