Clearing Jenin

Israeli Defense Forces faced many challeges in getting the terrorist out of Jenin in april 2002.

"Palestinian forces were thoroughly prepared for an Israeli operation in Jenin. The camp was booby-trapped from top to bottom. "From the very first moment that their tanks left Jenin last month [after an initial IDF raid], we began to work on the plan to draw the Israeli soldiers into a trap and then blow them up," recounted a Palestinian fighter. Everyone, apparently, had a hand in these efforts: "The entire camp was busy preparing charges and explosives," Mohammed Balas, an eyewitness, was quoted as saying in the Israeli newspaper Yedi'ot Aharonot. "Even women and small children openly laid explosives in the streets." Jenin's defenders did not hesitate to endanger their fellow Palestinians, nor did they think twice about planting bombs in houses-"inside cupboards, under sinks, inside sofas," according to one resident. Cars and dumpsters were also booby-trapped. By the time Israeli forces arrived, the whole city had become a minefield. On one street alone, an Israeli armored bulldozer detonated 124 explosive charges, some weighing as much as 250 pounds. And this was in the city of Jenin; the refugee camp itself was even more thoroughly laden with explosives."

"...In keeping with orders from the government and the military high command, Israeli soldiers issued warnings to the camp's inhabitants before the battle began, and even tried to evacuate by force those who would not leave voluntarily. This, of course, hampered the operation by eliminating any element of surprise. On April 8, CNN quoted a Palestinian from Jenin who reported that the Israelis 'used loudspeakers to call on residents to evacuate, saying they were preparing to strike the camp. Some residents refused to leave and were evacuated by force, but a majority were still in the camp when the strike began.' According to Time magazine, half the residents left the camp before the battle began, and 90 percent had left by the third day. Of approximately 14,000 residents, only about 1,300 remained. Even during the fierce house-to-house fighting, the warnings and announcements continued. Awad Masarweh, a resident of Jenin, recalled that an Israeli officer with a megaphone was calling out: 'People in the house, get out. We don't want you to be hurt.... Get out.... We are going to come in.' According to Israeli sources quoted by CNN, such warnings are standard practice for the IDF, even in the thick of battle: 'The civilian population was asked to leave. Most of them did. When troops came close to a house, they checked to see if there were civilians inside. If so, they were asked to leave. If they refused, they were moved to one room and kept there for the rest of the fight.'"

"...But on the whole, Israeli forces did take remarkable care to avoid endangering the lives of the camp's residents. It is useful to contrast this with the lack of parallel concern shown by the Palestinian fighters in Jenin, who made little effort to distinguish between combatants and civilians; on the contrary, an Israeli source relates that 'in many cases, they [women and children] took an active part in the combat, helping to prepare-or even detonate-bombs or explosive traps. In others, terrorists holed up in a house would have a woman or even a child open the door to the approaching Israeli soldiers, forcing them to hesitate just long enough to allow the terrorists to shoot first.' Foreign sources confirmed these reports."


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