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Conflict in the Middle East: Fierce Fighting Continues in Jenin

Aired April 12, 2002 - 14:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back here in Jerusalem once again, the military incursions on behalf of the Israeli government do continue in various parts of the West Bank, including that town of Jenin. We have talked about this at great length. It has been the location for some of the fiercest fighting in this battle yet.

There is a refugee camp there with about 15,000 Palestinians, as of yesterday, after the military action got under way and essentially (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down, with the exception of sporadic gunfire. We're now told by the U.N. that at least 3,000 of the 15,000 have been left homeless. It's been very difficult to get inside. The Israeli military has kept reporters, including our own, away from the scene. They say it's too dangerous and that it's a working military zone.

Well, Ben Wedeman has been there for about two days time. He tried to get in yesterday. He was kicked out of the town. He is back again today. Here's Ben's report from near Jenin a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're living in very cramped and crowded conditions. They're running low on water. They have very little medicine, very little food. And the sanitation conditions inside are very difficult. And all of them, almost all of them, told us stories of mass graves, of bodies being loaded into trucks and driven away. Of bodies being left in the sewers and bulldozed.

Now, all of these stories, obviously, we have no way of confirming. The Israeli army denies that any of this has happened. But until we get into the refugee camp and can see for ourselves, the question mark remains: what did happen inside that camp during about 10 days of intense fighting? How many people were killed? We just don't know. And we still are not able to get inside that refugee camp.

So, what has happened, essentially -- and I've been watching the Arabic television stations, the satellite stations, is that basically it is now taken as a fact, as the truth by millions of Arabs, that a massacre did take place within that camp. But we ourselves have no way of confirming that. And until we get inside, the stories will mount. There will be ever more accounts, but no way to verify them.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HEMMER: Again, Ben Wedeman from outside Jenin. Late last night, in talking with government spokespeople from the Israeli government, they said that possibly reporters would get in today, meaning Friday. They used the word "hopefully." But apparently, from Ben's reporting, that hasn't been the case yet.

And certainly, CNN as a network, we will try once again, tomorrow, Saturday, to get some sort of independent verification on the reports. We're getting a strong battle of words between the two sides, regarding the fate of that refugee camp in Jenin.

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