The massacre of Jenine refugees camp - 12.04.2002

The massacre of Jenine refugees camp - 12.04.2002

The Battle of Jenin took place in April 2002 in Jenin's Palestinian refugee camp as part of Operation Defensive Shield, a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), the largest conducted in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The battle attracted widespread international attention because journalists, particularly in the UK, reported that a massacre of Palestinians had taken place during the fighting, and that hundreds, or even thousands, of bodies had been secretly buried in mass graves by the IDF.

The United Nations (UN) report said that the number of Palestinians killed was at least 52, 22 of whom were civilians, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). 23 Israeli soldiers were killed. A section of the camp was destroyed during the fighting.

An UNRWA administrated refugee camp near Jenin was entered by Israeli forces in early April 2002, an operation the IDF described as intending "to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure operating out of the P.A.-controlled areas". Over the next few days a battle took place between the IDF and Palestinians. According to the IDF, Israel chose not to bomb the spots of resistance using aircraft as it entered, but rather to take hold of the city using infantry, although there appears to have been a limited use of helicopters.

After the April 9 ambush, the IDF changed tactics, presumably in order to continue the operation without risking more Israeli deaths, and began operating the heavily-armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozers. Earlier, the IDF maintained that heavy bulldozers were mainly used to clear booby traps and open routes to armored fighting vehicles. After April 9, the bulldozers demolished each house that was allegedly used by the militants to attack Israeli soldiers, and other houses to widen alleyways or to secure locations for IDF troops. Some Palestinians claim that there were cases when the IDF bulldozed houses while there were people inside.

The introduction of the heavily armored bulldozers, which shrugged off explosives and RPGs alike, and the threat of being buried alive, caused the Palestinian militants to surrender. Later, IDF forces withdrew gradually from the refugee camp under international pressure.

After the conflict Israeli reports claim that 8-9% of the houses within the refugee camp were destroyed. This was largely within an area of intense fighting of approximately 100 m by 100 m according to the IDF. Most of the demolition occurred in the Hawashin neighborhood.

Immediately following the event, Israeli authorities prevented the international press from entering the refugee camp for two weeks, which potentially delayed the ability of the world community to assess the damage. Later inquiries by human rights groups and the UN commission did not find evidence of massacres by Israeli forces in Jenin

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