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16 April 2002
Press Release No. HQ/G/14/2002
16 April 2002


Gaza – April 16, 2002

The destruction to Jenin camp looks like the aftermath of an earthquake, according to UN aid workers who accompanied two truckloads of food and medicines into the camp today. The wholesale obliteration of homes, streets and commercial buildings will leave a huge number of Palestinian refugee homeless, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Most shocking of all, the aid teams were told by residents that they hear noises coming from people trapped underneath collapsed buildings but are unable to free them. The Israeli military authorities would allow only limited access to the camp for the two truckloads of aid. Earthmoving equipment cannot currently gain access to the scene nor can the numbers of rescue workers that would be needed to dig survivors to safety. However, there are reports that seven people have been pulled alive from the rubble in the last 24 hours.

Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross removed a small number of bodies that were easily accessible, but UNRWA believes many more remain buried beneath the devastation.

The Israeli Defence Forces still maintain a heavy presence inside the camp with tanks and internal checkpoints. At one point today a tank parked itself in front of one of UNRWA’s half-full food trucks to prevent it distributing its remaining food aid.

UNRWA’s food and water supplies that did get to distribute their loads were rushed by large crowds, mainly composed of women, desperate to feed their families after 14 consecutive days trapped in the fighting and its aftermath. UNRWA urgently needs to gain unlimited access to the camp to allow it to care for the large numbers of people in need of basic relief supplies. The Agency has large quantities of aid standing outside the camp ready to meet the needs of those inside as soon as its is given free access to carry out its humanitarian mandate.

UNRWA installations such as a school and a health clinic were badly damaged in the assault on the camp and were extensively damaged by bullets. Unexploded ordnance remains in the grounds of an UNRWA school and will require profession defusing before the building can be used.

UNRWA is endeavouring to re-open its clinic to provide services to the camp residents. The Agency is also planning to set up water supply points in the camp, but will require access from the IDF.

Richard Cook, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, said: “The reports we are getting are of wholesale destruction of a kind more normally associated with natural disasters such as earthquakes. UNRWA still has not been given full access to the camp, where we believe many thousands of people are still in dire need of food, water and medical attention. We implore the Israeli authorities to open up the camp to allow our relief teams to help its desperate population.”
For Information Only
Not an Official Document
For more information contact:

Paul McCann on 08 677 7526/059 428 008
Sami Mshasha on 02 589 0408/050 317 094

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