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What Really Happened in Jenin? The <I>Independent</I> Newspaper of Britain Has Published the First Comprehensive Investigation

April 25, 2002

The first comprehensive investigation into the Israeli attack on Jenin was conducted by London Independent reporters Justin Huggler and Phil Reeves, along with Human Rights Watch senior researcher Peter Bouckaert. The article in today’s Independent begins:

“The thought was as unshakable as the stench wafting from the ruins. Was this really about counterterrorism? Was it revenge? Or was it an episode–the nastiest so far–in a long war by Ariel Sharon, the staunch opponent of the Oslo accords, to establish Israel’s presence in the West Bank as permanent, and force the Palestinians into final submission?

A neighbourhood had been reduced to a moonscape, pulverised under the tracks of bulldozers and tanks. A maze of cinder-block houses, home to about 800 Palestinian families, had disappeared. What was left–the piles of broken concrete and scattered belongings–reeked.

The rubble in Jenin reeked, literally, of rotting human corpses, buried underneath. But it also gave off the whiff of wrongdoing, of an army and a government that had lost its bearings. "This is horrifying beyond belief," said the United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, as he gazed at the scene. He called it a "blot that will forever live on the history of the state of Israel"–a remark for which he was to be vilified by Israelis. Even the painstakingly careful United States envoy, William Burns, was unusually outspoken as he trudged across the ruins. "It’s obvious that what happened in Jenin refugee camp has caused enormous suffering for thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians," he said.

The Israeli army insists that its devastating invasion of the refugee camp in Jenin earlier this month was intended to root out the infrastructure of the Palestinian militias, particularly the authors of an increasingly vicious series of suicide attacks on Israelis. It now says the dead were mostly fighters. And, as always–although its daily behaviour in the occupied territories contradicts this claim–it insists that it did everything possible to protect civilians.

But The Independent has unearthed a different story. We have found that, while the Israeli operation clearly dealt a devastating blow to the militant organisations–in the short term, at least–nearly half of the Palestinian dead who have been identified so far were civilians, including women, children and the elderly."Guests:

  • Justin Huggler, reporter with the Independent of London, author of a seven page report on war crimes in Jenin.
  • Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.


  • Colin Powell answering a question about Jenin at a press conference held yesterday, 04/24.


  • "No One Knows I’m Gone"–Tom Waits, Alice (Anti CD).

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