REPORT OF SECRETARY-GENERAL ON RECENT EVENTS
NEW YORK, 1 August (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations today released the Secretary-General’s report on recent events in Jenin and other Palestinian cities. This report was requested by the General Assembly in May (resolution ES-10/10, adopted on 7 May 2002), after the disbandment of the team which the Secretary-General, supported by the Security Council (resolution 1405 of 19 April 2002), had proposed to send to Jenin to establish the facts on the ground.
The report was, therefore, written without a visit to Jenin or to the other Palestinian cities. It relies, as the Assembly requested, on "available resources and information", including submissions from six United Nations Member States and Observer Missions, documents in the public domain, and papers submitted by non-governmental organizations from a range of perspectives. The Palestinian Authority did submit information, while the Government of Israel did not. In an effort to present as complete a picture as possible, the report makes use of publicly available information from the Israeli Government.
The report covers a period running from approximately the beginning of March to 7 May 2002. It sets out the context and background of the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. It also describes the security, humanitarian and human rights responsibilities of both parties. It briefly charts the rising violence since September 2000, which had, by 7 May 2002, caused the deaths of 441 Israelis and 1,539 Palestinians.
It was against this backdrop that the most extensive Israeli military incursions in a decade, Operation Defensive Shield, took place –- the proximate cause being the terrorist attack on 27 March in Netanya, in which 28 people were killed and 140 injured. The operation began on 29 March with an incursion into Ramallah, followed by entry into Tulkarm and Qalqilya on 1 April, Bethlehem on 2 April, and Jenin and Nablus on 3 April. By 3 April, six of the largest cities in the West Bank, and their surrounding towns, villages and refugee camps, were occupied by the Israeli military.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced the official end of Operation Defensive Shield on 21 April, but its consequences lasted far longer. Much of the fighting that occurred during the operation took place in areas heavily populated by civilians -– in large part because the armed Palestinian groups sought by the IDF during the incursions placed their combatants and installations among civilians –- and, in many cases, heavy weaponry was used. As a result, the populations of the cities suffered severe hardships.
The report highlights some key aspects of the events in Jenin and other Palestinian cities:
Terrorist Attacks from Palestinian Cities
The report describes the concerns of the Government of Israel that a number of the cities served as bases for armed Palestinian groups engaged in terrorist acts against Israel. For example, Israel has charged that, from October 2000 to April 2002, 28 suicide attacks were planned and launched from the Jenin camp. After their incursion into the camp, the IDF publicized the materials found there, including documents, arms caches and explosives laboratories
Conduct of Palestinian Militants during Incursions
The report notes that armed Palestinian groups are alleged to have widely booby-trapped civilian homes -– acts which targeted IDF personnel, but also placed civilians in danger. It also quotes the Palestinian Authority as acknowledging that a number of Palestinian fighters resisted the Israeli military assault.
Conduct of IDF during Incursions
The report refers to allegations from the Palestinian Authority and human rights organizations that, in the course of its operations, the IDF engaged in unlawful killings, the use of human shields, disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and torture, and denial of medical treatment and access. Among the examples and descriptions given in the report are the following:
Israeli Death Toll during period 1 March – 7 May
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the IDF lost 30 soldiers during Operation Defensive Shield. Israel also endured approximately 16 terrorist bombings, the large majority of which were suicide attacks, between the beginning of March and 7 May. More than 100 persons were killed and scores more wounded in those attacks.
The civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to suffer severe hardships, many of which have sharply intensified since the events covered in the report. There has been a near-complete cessation of all productive activity in the main West Bank centres of manufacturing, construction, commerce and private and public services, exacerbating the severe decline in living standards over the last 18 months. The United Nations does not have a mandate to monitor and report on conditions in Israel, as it does in the occupied Palestinian territory, and, therefore, does not have detailed information about the broader impact on Israel’s society and economy. But it is clear that during this period the Israeli people, too, have experienced great suffering, as a result of terrorism, and that Israel’s economy has been badly damaged.
In conclusion, the report stresses that a full and comprehensive account of the events in Jenin and other Palestinian cities could not be given without the full cooperation of both parties and a visit to the area. However, the Secretary-General expresses his confidence that "the picture painted in this report is a fair representation of a complex reality", as well as his belief that the events described show how urgent it is that the parties return to the peace process.
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