Text size

The residents of Jenin refugee camp have begun returning to homes destroyed during Operation Defensive Shield. The homes are being rebuilt by UNRWA with a $29 million grant from the United Arab Emirates.

Construction of 100 of the 530 housing units detroyed by the IDF in April 2002 has been completed, and 70 families have returned to their homes, which are better designed than the previous buildings. UNRWA officials say they hope the entire camp will be rebuilt by the end of the summer.

UNRWA decided, after a debate on the issue, to take 15 percent of the original area of each destroyed house and use the area to widen roads so that in the future it would be possible for Israeli tanks to pass more easily.

Many residents opposed this, saying it should be made more not less difficult for Israeli tanks to enter the camp. UN officials decided it would be wiser to leave wider roads so that the houses would not be destroyed again.

In addition, UNRWA moved 100 families to a new area on the outskirts of the camp where new houses were built for them, once again in anticipation of the necessity to leave more space for tanks.

"We have lost the right of return," said one of the camp's committee members this week when he saw the new homes.

Around 1,000 workers are employed on the project. Buildings on "ground zero," the area that was completely destroyed, have been painted a cream color, while the new quarter has been painted white.

About 100 families in the camp managed to get contributions from Iraq's Saddam Hussein before he was deposed. Each family that lost its home received $25,000, which they used to refurbish the interior and add furniture and equipment of a higher standard than previously seen in the camp.