Palestinians want inquiry into Jenin killings


Palestinians called today for the United Nations to investigate the killings in Jenin refugee camp, the scene of fierce fighting between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli forces.

Palestinians have accused Israel of carrying out massacres in Jenin and elsewhere, and have said 500 Palestinians, some of them in Jenin camp, have been killed in Israel's 13-day-old offensive in the West Bank.

Israel has called the allegations propaganda, saying troops encountered heavy gunfire and hundreds of bombs rigged in homes and streets as they moved from house to house through the camp while trying to avoid civilian casualties.

Israeli Foreign Minister Mr Shimon Peres said on Tuesday he feared Palestinian officials would distort the battle between soldiers and gunmen in Jenin to portray it as a massacre rather than a pitched battle.

Israel previously said about 100 fighters were killed in the camp during the offensive, which it said was launched to root out those behind a series of suicide bombings.

Jenin camp, like other West Bank areas, has been declared a closed military area, barring journalists from obtaining their own independent accounts.

"We asked him (Annan) to form an investigation committee to probe the war crimes, the ethnic cleansing policy and the massacres of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Jenin camp committed by the Israeli army," Mr Dahlan said.

Twenty-two Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in Jenin. Israeli military officials said the army took heavy casualties because it used ground troops to hunt for gunmen rather than bomb the camp from the air and risk civilian lives.