info -shifter | 09.04.2002 16:11
article was changed afternoon ,made more palatable
Peres calls IDF operation in Jenin a 'massacre'
By Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Correspondents
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres Peres is very worried about the expected international reaction as soon as the world learns the details of the tough battle in the Jenin refugee camps, where more than 100 Palestinians have already been killed in fighting with IDF forces. In private, Peres is referring to the battle as a "massacre."
IDF officers also expressed grave reservations Monday over the operation in Jenin. "Because of the dangers," they said, "the soldiers are almost not advancing on foot. The bulldozers are simply 'shaving' the homes and causing terrible destruction. When the world sees the pictures of what we have done there, it will do us immense damage."
"However many wanted men we kill in the refugee camp, and however much of the terror infrastructure we expose and destroy there, there is still no justification for causing such great destruction."
Peres, who is feeling increasingly isolated in the government - Sharon added three hardline ministers to his cabinet Monday - believes Arafat is still irreplaceable at this stage.
He does not regard the documents that Sharon presented Monday in the Knesset as a "smoking gun" that irrefutably proves that Arafat was directly linked to ordering terrorist activity. And Israel's isolation of the Palestinian leader, he believes, only enhanced his prestige and turned him into the key player.
Despite his harsh criticism, however, and his belief that Labor will not be able to remain much longer in the government, Peres is in no hurry to quit. He is telling his closest associates that after the fighting ends and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has visited, the decision will be made. If Powell presents a political plan, Labor will want to fight for it in the government.
[this afternoon the article was totally changed and appeared as]
Last update - 16:11 09/04/2002
Peres fears Palestinians will distort Jenin battle
JERUSALEM - Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on Tuesday he feared Palestinian officials would distort the battle between IDF soldiers and gunmen in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin in order to portray it as a "massacre."
Troops faced fierce resistance on Tuesday from Palestinian militants holed up in a small pocket in the Jenin refugee camp.
"The Foreign Minister expressed his concern that Palestinian propaganda is liable to accuse Israel that a 'massacre' took place in Jenin rather than a pitched battle against heavily armed terrorists," Peres said in a statement.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo denied Peres's charge and accused him of "trying to present the victim as a savage, and to present the murderer and the criminal as a human being."
Palestinian officials estimate at least 100 Palestinians have been killed during a week of fighting in Jenin, in which Israeli helicopters have fired missiles into the crowded camp as part of an effort to root out militants.
The Palestinian Authority has compared the casualties in Jenin to the massacre by Israeli-allied Lebanese Christian militia of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps near Beirut during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Israeli officials say militants in Jenin have waged a fierce battle with guns and explosives rather than surrender to troops who have pledged not to harm them if they lay down their arms.
In Jenin, nine IDF soldiers have been killed in the refugee camp since the start of the offensive.
Deputy Defence Minister, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, said Palestinians have refused Israeli offers to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) into the camp to remove the corpses for burial. She said Israel had also offered to evacuate the bodies.
Witnesses said they saw bodies still lying in the streets of the camp on Monday.
"When the other side refuses to remove bodies it must be clear to the whole world that the Palestinians are trying to increase the drama so the world continues demonstrating support for them," Pelossof told Israel Radio.
Palestinian medics say only a handful of their ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society have been allowed into the camp to evacuate the wounded.
The IDF has said it can allow entry to the conflict zone only when there is a lull in fighting and searches ambulances which it fears may be used to carry Palestinian gunmen or weapons
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