On my first trip to Jenin, on 13 April 2002, I was hidden under a box of oranges in an aid convoy. Deception was the only path available to a journalist who wanted to enter Jenin at that stage, when the Israeli army was completing its operation to level the centre of the refugee camp next to the town (the work carried on 24 hours a day, with the flares the army fired into the air above Jenin throughout the night visible from Nazareth).
These photos are from another visit, a month later, when access was easier and the scale of the damage clearer. The United Nations had already backed down from carrying out an investigation and the people of Jenin had been left to rebuild their lives and search for their dead largely on their own…
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Zionist groups have downplayed the damage done to the camp, saying an area only the size of a football field was destroyed by the Israeli army. Whether true or not, it ignores the fact that refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza like Jenin are some of the most densely inhabited places on earth. Often large families are crammed into a single room.
On the day of this visit, several families were still trying to find loved ones under the rubble (some would later turn up in Israeli military prisons) and children were carrying around unexploded ordnance. Several children died from explosions, killed because Israel refused to allow international salvage crews inside the town to remove unexploded Israeli army shells and rounds.
A total of 56 Palestinians died in Jenin during the army invasion, about half of them confirmed as civilians; 23 Israeli soldiers were killed, the army’s biggest loss in any single operation against the Palestinians. Today, the centre of the camp you see devastated in these pictures has been rebuilt with international money, mainly from the Gulf states, but this time – at Israel’s insistence – the streets have been made wide enough to give access to tanks.
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