Question of Palestine home
17 April 2002
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
UN DELIVERS AID AS CURFEW PARTIALLY LIFTED IN JENIN CAMP
The access by UN agencies to Jenin refugee camp has improved today. The curfew was partially lifted in a number of areas throughout the camp.
Although full access to all parts of the camp is not yet possible, officials from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) were able to distribute milk and bread to some 500 families.
UNRWA is also working with a number of donor countries to try to bring in bomb disposal experts to clear some of the unexploded ordnance. A preliminary check of UNRWA facilities in the camp did reveal the presence of ordnance.
While UNRWA will focus on feeding the people in the camp, on clearing ordnance and, eventually, on rebuilding facilities and shelters, the International Committee for the Red Cross will focus on search and rescue efforts for people who might still be trapped beneath the rubble.
The approximately 20 tons of food distributed on Tuesday reached about 900 to a 1000 families, which is roughly 5000 people. Those rations are meant to last three to four days. The food consists of dried and tinned goods, including sugar, flour and rice.
Asked whether the United Nations had assessed the damage caused by the Israeli incursion, the Spokesman said it still did not have complete access to the Jenin camp, where many casualties had been initially reported, and did not yet have enough time to do a comprehensive assessment.
Asked about UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson’s planned mission to the Middle East, he said the Secretary-General hoped that the Israeli authorities would cooperate with her visit and allow it to take place quickly.
Asked whether the Security Council should send a team to Jenin, the Spokesman said that would be their decision to make. The Secretary-General, he added, feels “we do want to know the truth about what happened.”
SECURITY COUNCIL, ANNAN TO DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST THURSDAY
In response to questions, the Spokesman confirmed that the Secretary-General intends to brief the Security Council on Thursday morning about his concept for a multinational force in the Middle East. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast informed the Council about such an idea last Friday at the Secretary-General's request, while the Secretary-General was travelling.
Asked whether the Secretary-General has been in contact with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell or Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat today, the Spokesman said he had not. The Secretary-General, Eckhard said, had voiced his support for Powell’s trip to the Middle East, as had the European Union and Russia, which comprise with the United Nations and the United States the “Quartet” dealing with peace in the Middle East. The Secretary-General expects another meeting of the Quartet soon.
Everybody is hoping that there will be a cease-fire eventually, the Spokesman added; to hold, he said, such a cease-fire would need a political context.
Asked about Arafat’s appeal for international assistance while he is confined in Ramallah, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General feels that Arafat needs room to maneuver, to function as the leader of the Palestinians.