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.

On the personal level, I am a reserve soldier, 38 years old, married with children. I know that the damage looks terrible, to us as well. The pain is great when you consider the damage to the civilian population, but I know that we did the maximum in order that as few innocent people as possible will be hurt.

Questions and answers: All of the questions were for the brigade's chief of staff.

Q: Did your soldiers bury Palestinian bodies? Did you move Palestinian bodies outside of Jenin for temporary burial in Israel?

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.
Afterwards we stopped this because of the High Court ruling. Some of the corpses were booby trapped in order to hurt our soldiers; after we took care of the bombs, the bodies were brought to the hospital or the Red Cross. No bodies were brought into Israel. As for Terje Larsen's accusations regarding food, the IDF provided food and water to the Palestinian civilians.

Q: What is your reaction to the UN claims that the IDF did not allow them to enter the Jenin refugee camp for six days?

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.

Q: Do you feel that the IDF completed its mission in Jenin? Or that you were forced to finish it hastily because of international pressure?

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.

Q: Do you believe that the suicide bombers will return?

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.

Q: You said that soldiers passed slowly from house to house, and that the combat was very slow in order to avoid harming the civilian population. Did you see families in the houses? How do you explain the UN's claims that the place looks like it was hit by an earthquake?

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
that exploded without damaging homes. But because their infrastructure was so weak, and in order that they not collapse and endanger us or the Palestinian population, we were forced to flatten them with bulldozers.

Q: The IDF brought refrigerators to store the bodies, and the Palestinians claimed that the IDF used these refrigerators to move these bodies out of Jenin. What is your reaction?

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!

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2 Colonel Hilik Sofer

Husam Badran, head of the Hamas military wing in Nablus, is responsible, among others, for the attacks in the Tel-Aviv Dolphinarium discotheque, the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, in Emanuel, in the Park hotel in Netanya and the Matza restaurant in Haifa. He is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of 99 civilians. Yesterday we received intelligence information on Badran's
whereabouts. He was at an orchard in Beit-Hasan near Nablus. We planned a swift operation to catch him. 2 combat helicopters shot at the target - an uninhabited orchard. Following the fire from the helicopters, a combined special unit and infantry force searched the orchard. The force found 2 dead terrorists, several wounded and others, Badran among them, who surrendered immediately. We evacuated the wounded terrorists to a hospital for further medical treatment. I wish to clarify that we are witnessing, again and again, the rapid surrender of senior terrorists who wish to save their lives. Sending terrorists to attack civilian population is dangerous to the free world.

3. Lieutenant-Colonel Itai Landsberg

I serve in a reserve tank unit. We were called up after the murderous attack on the first night of Passover. Two days after that, we were in Ramallah. We served in south Ramallah, Bitunia, Psagot, and up to Atarot airport. In the last three weeks, we searched about 400 homes, found ammunition, arrested many suspects, and found documents that tie the Palestinian Authority and
other official institutions to terrorism. For example, in an UNWRA school - an institution that belongs to the UN in the Ramallah area - we found six wanted terrorist. In a teacher's seminary, we found ammunition and many pictures of "shahidim" (the Arabic word for "martyrs," used to describe suicide bombers). In the Palestinian Authority's food storage buildings, we found a laboratory for manufacturing weapons rather than food. There are many more examples - it's stunning to find a civilian city with so many explosives laboratories, ammunition, and other military equipment. In Jibril Rajoub's base, we found disguises for suicide bombers - clothing, wigs, and skullcaps - to allow bombers to infiltrate Israel more easily.

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