Israel has rejected a proposal by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send a large multinational force to Palestinian areas to prevent further violence. The message was delivered during the opening of a Security Council debate Thursday on the devastation in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin.

Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Aaron Jacob, left little doubt that his government's position toward an international force remains unchanged. He said the force would be useless. He said Palestinian terrorism is the main obstacle:

"Israel made it clear that we accept the idea of third-party American monitors to supervise the implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell [plans], and we were willing to favorably consider an international presence in the context of a comprehensive settlement," he said. "But we cannot put our faith in the robust international presence, which could not be effective in the face of the continuing strategy of Palestinian terrorism."

Secretary-General Annan strongly urged the Security Council to authorize what he called a robust military presence in Palestinian areas to assist in an Israeli withdrawal and create a secure environment for peace negotiations. He said the Palestinians and the Israelis, left to their own devices, are incapable of resolving their differences.

Diplomats say Israel's rejection of the offer makes it unlikely that any such force would or could be deployed.

Meanwhile, the Security Council is discussing an Arab demand for a U.N. investigation of the devastation in Jenin. The Palestinians are calling it a massacre and want the Council to adopt a resolution setting in motion a formal inquiry. The debate continues Friday.

Earlier, Secretary-General Annan side-stepped the issue somewhat by saying getting emergency humanitarian assistance into the refugee camp is more urgent at this time. "I think the time will come for an investigation to be undertaken," said Mr. Annan. "But that is not my first priority, which at this stage is to get help to the people and get the dead buried and remove the wounded."

The secretary-general has called on Israel to lift its curfew around Jenin. His envoys in the area have reported massive damage in the camp. People, they say, are digging bodies out with their bare hands.