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19 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Friday, April 19, 2002
MIDDLE EAST: UN ENVOY SAYS FOCUS SHOULD BE ON HELPING CIVILIANS
This morning in Jerusalem, Terje Roed Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, met with members of the diplomatic corps, as well as World Bank and UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA
) representatives, to update them on the economic, humanitarian and political situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In his opening statement, referring to his visit yesterday to Jenin refugee camp, Larsen said:“ Let me be very clear I have not and I am not accusing anyone of massacres. We do not have the full facts from Jenin. But what I saw yesterday was truly appalling.”
“The destruction was massive; the stench overwhelming,” he said.
He went on to say that his primary criticism of the Israeli government was that it did not act adequately to respond to the humanitarian situation in the camp.
Larsen said his primary focus is that everything possible is being done to alleviate the suffering of civilians in both Jenin and elsewhere. To that end, he appealed for a lifting of the curfew as well as for political and financial support for the humanitarian agencies, particularly UNRWA, the International Committee for the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent, who are faced with major new responsibilities.
As for the impact of the current situation on the Palestinian economy, Larsen said: “The Palestinian economy has moved from a relentless economic depression into economic paralysis.” The latest figures show that least 75% of productive activities in the West Bank have come to a halt; and at least 75% of the work force is now idle.
UNWRA DISTRIBUTES FOOD, REPORTS DAMAGE IN WEST BANK REFUGEE CAMPS
According to an update we received from UNRWA this morning, the agency continued its emergency food distributions in several areas in the West Bank, particularly in the Nablus and Jenin areas. Food shortages are reported in Nablus, particularly flour, which is the main commodity being distributed by UNRWA in that area.
UNRWA also distributed food in a number of villages in the Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, including some neighborhoods of Ramallah town itself.
UNRWA's medical team in Jenin operated from the Agency's clinic in the camp today. The curfew on Jenin town and camp has been lifted, although a tight closure remains around both areas.
Of UNRWA's 95 schools in the West Bank, only 13 are operating due to the closures and curfews.
Preliminary estimates of damage to refugee shelters in the latest incursion, March 29, show that over 300 shelters in Tulkarm, Nur Shams, Balata, Askar and Camp Number 1 have been severely damaged in addition to some 800 shelters in Jenin camp. Another 170 refugee houses in Qalqilia and Hebron towns have also been damaged, according to the same initial estimates.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS MISSION TO MIDDLE EAST IS CANCELLED
High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson announced in Geneva today that the proposed visiting mission to the Middle East will not take place.
Following a telephone conversation between former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, who was to have gone on that mission, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the members of the mission have learned that it will not be facilitated by the Israeli authorities.
Robinson will report to the Commission in the course of the next week on this matter.
SECURITY COUNCIL CONTINUES MIDDLE EAST DEBATE
Security Council members this morning held closed consultations for about 30 minutes on the Middle East.
They then concluded the public meeting on the Middle East which began Thursday afternoon.
Council members will return to closed consultations this afternoon at 4 p.m. [...]