4-20-02 - Briefing: The truth about Jenin - Maj.Lederman; Capture of Hamas leader - Col. Sofer, Ramallah area findings - Lt.Col. Landsberg IDF Spokesperson 20 April 2002
1. Major Rafi Lederman, a brigade chief of staff
I'll tell you a few words about my unit, all of which is made up of reservists who represent a cross-section of the Israeli public, in all of its factions and complexities: We were called to reserve duty after the terror attack in the Park Hotel in Netanya on Passover evening. We were called to serve in the refugee camp in Jenin.
Why Jenin? Jenin is the base for the terrorist infrastructure. We know this to be a fact, because most of the suicide bombers were educated in Jenin, worked in Jenin, trained in Jenin or passed through Jenin in order to receive a blessing before going out to execute a bombing. We arrested most of the leadership of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Our goal is to protect our homes. As a military force, we were united in the goals of the operation, to bring safety to our families. We felt that terror jailed us in our homes, and the time had come to neutralize the terrorist leaders.
The intelligence that the company commander in Jenin received is that there aren't that many civilians, but that most of them were terrorists. In the Jenin refugee camp alone, 3.5 tons of terrorist weaponry welcomed the IDF forces that entered. Many bombs exploded on our forces.
During my tour with journalists, I showed them bags of garbage with bombs, refrigerators that stood in the street and appeared innocent, but which were full of explosives. The Palestinians drilled holes in the street and buried mines there. All of the bombs were activated by electronic means or by cellular telephones. There were also sniper's posts in the Jenin refugee camp.
In order to give you a general idea about the Jenin refugee camp, we're speaking of an area 500 by 600 meters. It's a relatively small refugee camp. Nearly every point in the camp was booby-trapped. Only in the center of the Jenin refugee camp were we able to pass through with bulldozers, and relative to the camp as a whole this was a very small area. As minister
Sharansky said (in a diplomatic briefing organized by the Foreign Ministry), we restrained ourselves, we didn't use helicopters or missiles from the air, but rather with accurate weapons to avoid injuring civilians. The fighting itself was intensive but very slow; it took us nine days. The type of warfare was an attack by the camp on all sides with slow progress in the direction of the center of the camp. Fighting by the terrorists was from within homes.
There were almost no innocent civilians. We called for the civilians to leave their homes in order not to be hurt in the crossfire. Civilians who left their homes were accompanied by the IDF until they were outside of the camp, and were asked not to return in order to avoid getting hurt.
There were serious exchanges of fire. The terrorists fired on wounded IDF soldiers in order to make it difficult to rescue them. We estimate that about 200 terrorists fought against us, the absolute majority of them concentrated in the center of the camp. The houses at the center of the camp were booby trapped, and thus we used bulldozers to flatten them. There were homes whose foundations were damaged from the bombs that exploded, and to avoid the danger of collapse we were forced to flatten them as well.
Medical aid: We invited aid organizations to offer help on one condition, that we would know where they were going in order to check their vehicles when leaving the Jenin refugee camp. I was present during our search of the aid organizations' vehicles in which they tried to smuggle Palestinians posing as wounded. The IDF moved medical equipment to the Jenin hospital as per the request of the hospital manager. At no time did the IDF fire at or enter the hospital.
Water: We filled a well at our expense, so that there would not be a lack of water.
Electricity: The IDF brought the Palestinians two generators to help them during blackouts, as well as to avoid them.
Blackouts: I know that this is the most
interesting subject. We gave the Palestinians 11 bodies. In homes in the refugee camp, we
found 14 bodies and another 13 bodies were discovered by the Palestinians. In total, 38
bodies were found. Among the dead, we found women's bodies with weapons on them, and I
know of one boy who was killed.
A: There was no burial of terrorist bodies or of Palestinian civilians in Jenin. All of
the bodies that were discovered were given to the hospital during the fighting.
A: As I mentioned previously, we allowed them to enter on condition that they allow us
to check their vehicles on the way out of Jenin. The decision was theirs alone.
A: I feel that we dealt a heavy blow to the terrorist infrastructure in Jenin that will
neutralize them for several months. To my dismay, we didn't complete all of the searches
and thus didn't capture all of the ammunition in the camp.
A: When we leave, we will not be able to control what happens in the Jenin refugee
camp. In the future, I assume that they will be able to restore some of what was.
A: The houses were abandoned by the civilians. Families were in some of the homes, we
called their owners to exit, and showed them the safest way to leave the refugee camp. The
camp was completely booby trapped, and despite the house-to-house combat, the center of
the camp was so completely booby trapped that we were forced to use bulldozers. At times
there were bombs
A: The IDF did indeed bring refrigerators to the refugee camp hoping to place found
bodies in there to preserve them. In the end, every body that was found was brought to the
hospital in Jenin. For this reason, the truck with a refrigerator that entered the refugee
camp empty, also exited empty!