On April 3, 2002 the Israeli Defense Force initiated an assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin as a part of its campaign against terrorism following the Passover Massacre. The fighting was reported to be fierce as the IDF faced intense resistance from the Palestinians and lost 13 soldiers. The IDF is said to have gone from house to house searching for suspects and demolished several civilian buildings. The city surrendered on April 10.
Despite numerous civilian casualties and significant destruction to civilian houses and living areas, the IDF, for three days, prevented ambulances and aid workers from having access to the area and from providing care to the wounded and to Palestinians trapped in the refugee camp.
Estimates of the dead have ranged from 48 to 500 people, though the total number is unclear as the remains of destroyed buildings have yet to be cleared.
UNRWA staff members who entered the Agency's badly damaged clinic for the first time since the Israeli army occupied the camp witnessed the health center being the target of wanton destruction with damage caused by hundreds of bullet holes fired inside the Center by Israeli soldiers who occupied the clinic for four days wrecking havoc to medical equipment, medical files and medicine. Extensive damage to the Agency's girls school also took place.
The United Nations Security Council approved an official mission to study the incident at Jenin on April 19. Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland, will head a fact-finding mission mandated by the United Nations Security Council to develop accurate information regarding recent events at the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank. In addition to Mr. Ahtisaari, who served in various high-level UN posts over the course of his career, the team will comprise former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). General Bill Nash of the United States will serve as Military Advisor while Thomas Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland will be the team's Police Advisor.
The Israeli government denies that there was a massacre stating that only 48 people died during IDF operations. Furthermore, the IDF has stated that the area of destruction within the camp is roughly 100 x 100 meters. But after viewing imagery of the area it is clear that the damage is substantially greater than the Israeli's are admitting, showing an area of destuction that measures roughly six acres as opposed to the 2.5 claimed by Israel's IDF or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs later, and evidently erroneous, figure of 200 m2. UNRWA reportedly listed the area at 475 by 275 meters.
The discrepancy in the numbers being provided by both Israel's IDF and UNRWA can in large part be attributed to the selection criteria for the assessment of damage, with the IDF apparently selecting a much more restritive criteria focused mainly on destroyed buildings.
UNRWA estimates that 400 families were made homeless when their shelters were completely destroyed during the Israeli military action in the camp. An additional 1,500 shelters were damaged to varying degrees.
UNRWA has undertaken to rebuild the camp over the course of the next two years in three phases. In phase one, which is planned to take nine months, UNRWA would complete its work assessing the damage and the needs of the refugees, demolishing structures, preparing designs and removing rubble and any remaining unexploded ordnance. In phase one it will also make minor repairs to the refugee shelters that need them and begin rehabilitating buildings with major structural damage. Phase one will also involve the rehabilitation of around 70 homes belonging to the camp's most impoverished residents that are badly in need of improvement. In phase two, which should take 19 months, UNRWA will completely reconstruct 400 shelters and rebuild the camp's water supply, sewage, electricity, roads, pathways and public areas. In phase three, planned to take 15 months, repair and reconstruction work will be done to communal facilities such as schools, health centres and mosques. All three phases are designed to overlap to allow UNRWA to meet its two-year deadline.
The project is to be implemented in co-ordination with the refugees themselves, the Municipality of Jenin and the Palestinian Authority. During the building works UNRWA will make use of local Palestinian contractors, workers and suppliers to the maximum extent possible.
The Jenin refugee camp was established in 1953, within the municipal boundaries of Jenin on 373 dunums. Most of the camp's residents came from villages which can be seen from the camp and which today lie inside the Green Line in Israel. Many of the refugees still maintain close ties with their relatives in those villages.
- The registered refugee population is 13,055 persons
- UNRWA runs two schools in the camp, one for boys (750 pupils) and one for girls (727 pupils);
- There are some 307 families registered as special hardship cases (SHCs), consisting of 877 beneficiaries;
- Over the past three years, UNRWA has assisted around 177 poor refugee families (SHCs and non-SHCs) with the rehabilitation of their shelters;
- As part of UNRWA's poverty alleviation programme, about 25 youth from poor families were provided with skills-training/apprenticeships in marketable skills.
Jenin was originally built on the old Canaanite city which was called "Ayn Jenim". This name meant "the head of paradise." The ancient city of Jenin was situated on the Tell right in the middle of the present city, next to the bus station. Under the Roman Empire Jenin was called "Ginae", which belonged to the Roman commune of Sebastney. In the time of Saladin Al Ayubi, around the year 1187, there was a castle in or near Jenin. Saladin's army took over this city in one day. Jenin became an important town during the 13th century because the Mamluks, who feared more Crusader invasions, destroyed the coastal Palestinian towns and fortified several inland cities including Jenin.
During the World War II the Germans built an airport runway in Jenin to help the Turks. On the western edge of the town there is a memorial to the pilots who died during the war. At the southern entrance of the city is another memorial for Iraqi soldiers who fell during the 1948 war.
Jenin's geographic location close to the Jordan valley to the east, the Mediterranean to the west, and right in the center of the most fertile plain in Palestine, Marj Bin Amer, makes it an ideal site for growing fruit trees and vegetables. Citrus trees are abundant, and its vegetable market is a shopper's pilgrimage for the residents of nearby cities and villages. In Spring, the road to Jenin, whether the official Nablus-Jenin road heading north-west, or the less trodden road through Tubas (south-east and then heading north), or the trip southward from Nazareth, the hills and mountains on the way are covered with wild yellow and purple flowers growing amidst the green grass. Wheat fields are abundant, as well as olive and almond trees. A hike and picnic along the way in the middle of what seems to be nowhere is recommended in May, before the summer heat creeps in.
The fifth holiest Christian place and the third oldest church in the world is located in the village of Burqin, 3 kms west of Jenin. The Burqin church is also known as St. George's church.
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