Hours before the UN probe was due to be disbanded, Syria and Tunisia, under heavy US pressure, withdrew a draft UN resolution which would have asked Annan to send the team and demand Israeli assistance. Two alternative drafts emerged on 2 May. One of them, drawn up by the US, would put the Security Council on record as ‘regretting’ Israeli intransigence and supporting Annan’s decision to disband it. A rival Irish draft used stronger language, ‘deploring’ Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s obstruction of the mission.

Palestinian medical staff have so far recovered 53 corpses from the ruins of the refugee camp, a large swathe of which was levelled by bulldozers during the nine-day Israeli assault. Of these, 21 were civilians, the Palestinians say.