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transcript of an interview with UN Special Envoy Larsen
Dr. David Zangen, a senior pediatrician at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, who received his mobilization order for army service in Jenin, did not think that he would also be recruited for Israel's information campaign. Normally, he is a calm person, but the accusations made by the UN Special Envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larsen, regarding a "massacre" supposedly carried out by Israel in Jenin have infuriated him. Dr. Zangen could not restrain himself, and called the Israel Army Radio service, to protest Larsen's charges. Dr. Zangen's comments are particularly significant, because he treated both wounded Israelis and Palestinians with great dedication. In this way, Dr. Zangen became a spokesman for the IDF, for one day. His account sheds a little light on what really happened in the refugee camp.
"I was incensed by Larsen's remarks. He must not be allowed to continue with these lies", stated Dr. Zangen to Maariv. "I was there during the fighting, and I saw close up what was happening. I know that the IDF did everything it could to prevent civilian casualties. It is clear to everyone that if the IDF had resorted to aerial bombardment or heavy artillery, we would have completed [our mission] in the refugee camp within half a day, without suffering any casualties on our side. We did not adopt that policy, and we took risks in the fighting, in an attempt to rescue those innocent civilians that were caught up in the battles. Anyone who says that Israel carried out a massacre is lying and inciting the Arabs. Instead of acting to bring about reconciliation and peace, Larsen is creating hatred."
Dr. Zangen continued, "IDF soldiers did not enter the Jenin hospital, and ensured that the hospital could operate without disruption. No IDF soldier set foot in the hospital. The Palestinians hid there in the knowledge that we would not enter. Everyone knows this, and anyone who says otherwise is lying and inciting. The descriptions of the smell of the bodies in the refugee camp are also exaggerated out of all proportion. A week after the fighting, I walked around the camp without a mask, with journalists from all over the world, and there was no smell. The journalists knew this, but all of a sudden, they claimed that there was a stench in the camp from bodies that had not been evacuated. Twenty-five bodies were found altogether, and most of the bodies were those of the terrorists. There may have been one area in the entire camp in which there were a number of bodies buried under the rubble, and this would explain the smell. However, aside from this case, there was no smell in the refugee camp - this is just a crude lie."
Dr. Zangen, who found himself in the eye of the storm, is appalled at the attempt to portray the IDF as an immoral army. "There are those who say that the events in Jenin were like a holocaust. However, if you were to enter the camp, you would find that only a few dozen homes were destroyed. These were homes that were booby-trapped for the purpose of killing soldiers. This was a fortress of terrorism. 200 terrorists wired up the camp with booby-traps, they took control of it and recruited suicide bombers at every opportunity. In recent years, a third of the suicide bombers have come from the Jenin refugee camp. We found photo albums with pictures of children wearing explosive belts; studio photographs of future shahidim [martyrs], children aged between 16 and 18, who want to kill Israelis in suicide attacks. All the homes in the refugee camp are covered with wall-to-wall pictures of martyrs. It is unbelievable. These [martyrs] are their heroes.
Their aim was to carry out suicide attacks against the IDF soldiers. If there were innocent civilians in the area, they were either the hostages of the terrorists or collaborators. In any case, during each stage of the fighting, we called out to all those who did not want to fight - to leave the homes. The terrorists exploited the departure of these people, and they were shooting at us."
Dr. Zangen is a doctor of the brigade that fought in Jenin, and treated many of the wounded. "The soldiers fought without harming civilians", he stated. "This was noticeable in every place and on every level. I was moved by the sight of soldiers conducting themselves in such a dignified and moral manner. Most of us are reserve soldiers; we are not hotheaded people, and we were all very careful. I was impressed by the great care exercised by the IDF in avoiding civilian casualties - especially with regard to children. The resolve and volunteering spirit also impressed me. They were all ready to fight, and no one shirked their duties. The Unit and Divisional Commanders who fought there are the creme de la creme of the Israeli people, and it is thanks to them that we are still alive. They did not lose their humanity."
"I am infuriated by the claims of a massacre in Jenin, for another reason. The paramedics and I risked our lives to treat the wounded Palestinians. As well as the wounded, we also treated the sick. The Palestinian doctors did not come to their aid, and we could not leave them without medical treatment. The Palestinian doctors were unable to reach a girl who had an attack of appendicitis. The soldiers brought the girl over to us and we treated her. In another case, a youngster came to us with a neck wound. We saved his life, in spite of his Islamic Jihad tattoo. We tried to provide full treatment for every Palestinian, and I am proud of it. I am in no doubt: the Americans would not have taken such risks, and would have acted differently. We acted in this way, simply to avoid civilian casualties."
Hodi Broker from Haifa, a thirty-year-old teaching assistant from Technion university, who served as a paramedic in a field hospital, also talks about the treatment of the Palestinians: "an elderly person who was wounded in the refugee camp came to us. We treated him, and we wanted to send him back to Jenin, but there was nowhere for him [to receive treatment]. The 'Red Crescent' refused to take him. We took pity on him and we transported him to a hospital in Israel. I hope he is well."
Dr. Zangen, the father of four children, fought in Lebanon, and this is the first time that he is on the battlefield serving as a doctor. "When you are serving as a doctor, your perspective is completely different. It was difficult for me to witness soldiers being hit by mass murderers who have no red lines, and who are even prepared to exploit children. I saw pictures of children who were ready to carry out suicide attacks. As a pediatrician, it was terrible to see such a thing, and I am appalled by the very thought of a killing machine that exploits innocent children. For instance, soldiers encountered a six year-old boy who ran into the street with a bag. They wanted to check the contents of the bag, and he threw the bag at them. There were three pipe bombs in the bag. One other difficult problem is the treatment of wounded fellow-soldiers from the unit. It is a traumatic experience."
As the senior doctor on the ground, Zangen was forced to make difficult decisions - who should be treated on the ground? Who should be evacuated? When should treatment be abandoned, and be provided to another wounded [soldier]? "These are difficult moments, in which the fate of friends is determined. All the time, you are also aware that these people are reservists, with families, who were among the living, and all of a sudden, they are killed or wounded. And then, you are not only thinking about them, but also thinking about the widow and the orphaned children left at home."
Dr. Zangen has returned to Hadassah hospital, but the images of the battlefield are still fresh in his mind. He talks of the courage and the steadfastness of the wounded soldiers. "Some of these wounds were so severe, that I thought that they would be unable to withstand the pain. The soldiers suffered in silence, displaying true courage. They knew why they were fighting. I remember a soldier who was hit by a bullet in the stomach, and who suffered excruciating pain. Yet he wanted to know when he was going back into battle. The Israeli people need to know that we have a noble generation that we can all rely upon."
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