A three-member team formed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due to arrive in Jenin on 27 April to investigate Israel's destructive eight-day assault on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has sought to block the UN probe, which comes amid a welter of harrowing eyewitness reports from Palestinian survivors of the Israeli operation.
Israel has objected to the make-up of the team, and has demanded that military figures should have a more important role in the inquiry. Israel has also sought to ensure that the conclusions of the investigation should have no legal status, so that Israeli individuals would be protected from possible prosecution for war crimes.
Israeli forces pulled back from several West Bank towns, including Jenin, on 21 April, but military operations continued in many locations. There have been daily incidents in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli reports have suggested that Sharon may order a major incursion into the area. The operation launched by Israel on 29 March was restricted to the West Bank.
Sharon has also announced that there will be no question of removing any settlements from the West Bank and Gaza until the next parliamentary elections, due in October 2003. Asked by a cabinet member at a 21 April meeting why the government did not adopt the recommendations of the Israeli army and evacuate isolated settlements, Sharon is reported to have banged his fist on the table and said that, if he was re-elected, there would be no such discussion at all. 'The fate of Netzarim is the fate of Tel Aviv', he said, in reference to one of the settlements in Gaza.
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