Getting Inside the Jenin Refugee Camp
J E N I N, The West Bank, April 22 -- When the Israeli troops withdrew from this Palestinian refugee enclave last week, they did not go very far. Tanks and armored troop carriers still surround Jenin. Israeli soldiers still try to keep outsiders from reaching the camp.
The only way in is to walk several miles behind Israeli military lines to a nearby village, where, in one of the quirks of this conflict, taxi drivers gladly drive us to Jenin.
Once we got there, we found the center of the camp — an area the size of several city blocks — obliterated. It looked more like the aftermath of a natural disaster — an earthquake or a tornado — than an act of man.
Shattered walls show the signs of heavy artillery. Scorch marks indicate the aftermath of grenade and rocket attacks. And mounds of dirt and rubble show the work of armored bulldozers.
Residents of the destroyed buildings return to try to salvage whatever they can. The first man we met was busily sorting through the chunks of brick and concrete that was once his home.
His seven-year-old son, he tells us in Arabic, wants to go home. "I told him we have no home," he says.
Then his son wanted to call his uncle. "There is no uncle," he told him.
Destruction Within Seconds
The man's neighbor, Hassan Abu-Eyad, says he wants to live in peace with Israelis — but if he doesn't find his two teenage sons, he says in Arabic, "I will be the first to become a terrorist — the whole camp will be terrorists."
"For 24 years, I've been working hard to keep my house," he tells us. "It took just seconds for them to destroy it — seconds."
Palestinian refugees tell of an all-out assault on this camp, where 23 Israeli soldiers died.
"Tanks were shooting at us, aircraft were shooting at us, soldiers were shooting at us," Nisserin Al-Goul says in Arabic. "All the Israeli military was shooting at us."
Al-Goul says the soldier entering her house told her that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told troops to "destroy the camp."
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