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Jenin (جنين) is a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank, which is divided between Israeli and Palestinian control (see Oslo Accords).

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Operation Defensive Shield


Jenin is a Palestinian city with a refugee camp in the northern part of the West Bank. It overlooks both the Jordan Valley to the east, and the Jezreel Valley to the north. Jenin is neither an ancient town (See also: Anem) nor a big one, and has a population of a few tens of thousands. In particular, one of the city's quarters is a refugee camp housing the Arab refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and their descendants. It has long been a center of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Jenin was the center of civil unrest during the Great Uprising of Palestinians in the years 1936-1939; in particular, it was the base of the pioneer of Arab resitence, Sheikh Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam (the Hamas military wing is named after him). It was also used by Qawquji's partizans, before they were pushed away by the British.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the city was captured briefly by forces of Israeli Karmeli Brigade during the "10 Days' fighting" following the cancelation of the first cease-fire. For 19 years, the city was under Jordanian control; it was then captured by the Peled division of the IDF on the first day of the Six-Day War of 1967.

The city was handed over by Israel to the control of the Palestinian Authority in 1996; as it turned out, however, radical Islamist elements began to assemble in the city almost immediately. For a while they were silenced by the Palestinian authority, but they were never openly acted against. At the start of the Second Intifada, the city has allegedly become a central source for the dispatching of suicide bomber to Israel's North and Center. According to Israeli sources, a quarter of all suicide bombings carried out in Israel during the Intifada (which one?) originated in Jenin. See Palestinian terrorism for an in-depth discussion of this broader issue.

Operation Defensive Shield

Jenin's refugee camp was the place of one of the most conroversial battles of Operation Defensive Shield. The battle itseld drew enormous international attention and is still a painful issue for both Israeli and Palestinians, who continue to fight over it in the media.

The battle

Jenin was entered by Israeli forces in early April 2002, as part of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield. A battle took place there, about which conflicting reports were relayed. According to the Israeli Defence Forces, Israel chose not to bomb the spots of resistance using aircraft as it entered in order to minimize civilian losses [1], but rather to take hold of the city using infantry. 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in the street fighting, 14 of them in a single day from a charge carried by a suicide bomber that triggered the collapse of a building and shooting done by his accomplices. Overall, Israel said that its forces had killed 47 militants and 7 civilians. The walls of many buildings were covered with posters hailing the suicide bomber "martyrs".

In October 2002, the Walla news agency has reported Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas websites reported that their forces in Jenin before the Israeli entry included 250 armed militants. The official Kol Yisrael radio station reported 15,000 explosive charges were at the militants' disposal, as well as a large number of handguns. The militants were well-organized and had an extensive system of communications. Walla also mentions sources that claim that Palestinians youngsters participated in the fighting, sometimes even carrying explosive charges in their schoolbags.

Time Magazine also write about the heavily wired refugee camp. It states, for example, that at the outskirts of Jenin, an IDF armoured Caterpillar D9 detonated 124 explosive-charges. Time also quotes a Palestinian gunmen admiting that the terrorists' own booby-traps caused some of the civilian deaths.

According to Israel's forces numerous buildings, passages and even bodies were booby-trapped, often prompting the use of bulldozers. They also claimed to have found more than a dozen explosive-making labs, as well as bodies of foreign citizens, most of whom were operatives of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement that were brought over from Jordan.

False Allegations of a Massacre

Initially, officials of the Palestinian Authority claimed that the Israelis had deliberately massacred 3,000 people, and were burying them in mass-graves. Some advocates of Palestinian nationalism claimed that "the Jews" were starting a "Holocaust" against Arabs. Many Western news agencies reported these claims uncritically and without confirmation. However, on April 30, Kadoura Mousa Kadoura, the director of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement for the northern West Bank dropped the death toll to 56 people, including armed combatants. Further investigation by the United Nations and international reporters cconfirmed that only 52 Palestinians where killed in the opperation, 22 of whom were civilians.

On May 2nd, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) filmed adult Palestinians carrying out a mock funeral procession. The funeral was fake and the "body" was able to get up and walk. This raises the question whether the Palestinians falsify other evidence as well. On May 8th, 2002, The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment issued a press release [1] stating that it was only Palestinian children playing "funeral". Israeli groups reject this claim outright.

Human Rights reports

In late April and on May 3, 2002, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch respectively released their reports about the IDF incursions into Jenin. The HRW report stated that it found "no evidence to sustain claims of massacres or large-scale extrajudicial executions by the IDF", and the Amnesty International report came to the same conclusion. They agreed with the total casualty figures provided by the IDF but reported triple the civilian casualties. However the HRW report also stated that "Israeli forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes", Amnesty International concurring. The HRW report concluded

However, many of the civilian deaths documented by Human Rights Watch amounted to unlawful or willful killings by the IDF ... Some of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch amounted to summary executions ... Throughout the incursion, IDF soldiers used Palestinian civilians to protect them from danger, deploying them as "human shields" and forcing them to perform dangerous work ... the IDF prevented humanitarian organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, from gaining access to the camp and its civilian inhabitants-despite the great humanitarian need.

While focussing mainly on the actions of the IDF, it adds that:
Palestinian gunmen did endanger Palestinian civilians in the camp by using it as a base for planning and launching attacks, using indiscriminate tactics such as planting improvised explosive devices within the camp, and intermingling with the civilian population during armed conflict, and, in some cases, to avoid apprehension by Israeli forces.

The report notes that:
The presence of armed Palestinian militants inside Jenin refugee camp, and the preparations made by those armed Palestinian militants in anticipation of the IDF incursion, does not detract from the IDF's obligation under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians ... Unfortunately, these obligations were not met.

Israeli critics of the report pointed out that commissions included no urban or counter-terrorist warfare specialists, and therefore believe they were unable to assess the justifiability of the different actions of the IDF. They furthermore found that the humanitarian organizations were rash to jump into conclusions without investigating thoroughly the conduct of the Palestinain guerilla forces in the area. Moreover, they felt that although terrorists are civilians by definition, they were still combatants, which made their status different from that of the unarmed civilians. Finally, the human rights bodies had not investigated the incidents in which ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent and equipment of other aid agencies were accused of being used by Palestinian militants to transport weapons and gunmen, thus allegedly voiding their nonbelligerent status as defined in the Geneva Convention.

To settle the contradictory claims, a fact finding mission, was proposed by the United Nations on April 19 2002. Israel initially agreed to co-operate with the enquiry, but put up a set of conditions to do so. Among these were that the mission should include anti-terrorism experts, that UN desisted from its right to prosecute Israeli soldiers for potential violations of international law and limited its scope exclusively to events in Jenin. The UN refused to accept the last two conditions and ultimately disbanded its mission. Israel argued that the conditions on which the UN proposed the mission were unfair, as the UN never agreed to giving the anti-terrorism expert full membership, it had never given the mission a strict mandate, and neither did it declare the mission solely investigatory (as opposed to having a judicial purpose). All three stand in violation to the UN's own principles (as stated in the "Declaration on Fact-finding by the United Nations", A/RES/46/59 of December 9, 1991). In a subsequent report by the Secretary General, the UN has confirmed that no massacre took place.

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