The United Nations dismissed as "not credible" yesterday an Israeli army claim
that Palestinian gunmen fired from inside a UN compound in the West Bank city
of Jenin on Friday before its soldiers shot dead Iain Hook, a 52-year-old British
Paul McCann, a spokesman for the UN relief agency, said: "Our preliminary findings
are completely contrary to what the Israeli army said. The compound is quite small.
At no point did we lose control of the site. There were no militants on the site.
I am very sad and angry that the man was shot dead while working in a clearly
marked UN compound."
A U.N. worker carries a wreath in the West Bank city of Jenin, November 22, 2002,
with a portrait of Iain John Hook, a British UNRWA official killed on Friday.
The United Nations voiced anger on Sunday over the killing of the U.N. official
by Israeli troops in the West Bank, as Israel pressed ahead with military operations
it says aim to root out Palestinian suicide bombers. REUTERS
A security expert from UN headquarters in New York began immediately to investigate
in greater depth how Mr Hook, who was heading a £17m project to rebuild the
Jenin refugee camp razed in an Israeli invasion in April, met his death. He was
transferred last night to an Israeli forensic medicine laboratory near Tel Aviv,
but UN officials were awaiting his family's decision on where to hold a post-mortem
examination. Palestinians showed up in big numbers with flowers when the dead
man was put into a UN ambulance for transfer to Jerusalem.
The Israelis said Mr Hook was shot by a soldier who mistook a mobile phone
he was holding for a grenade. They maintained that militants were firing from
inside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency compound and from neighboring
alleys, using civilians as defensive shields. In one case, the army said, a gunman
shot from behind a woman carrying a blue flag of the agency.
The troops were on a search mission for a top Islamic Jihad operative, Abdullah
Naji Wahash, when they came under fire. Israel blames Mr Wahash for plotting many
bombings, including a suicide attack on a bus that killed 14 Israelis last month.
He surrendered after the shooting abated.
Although Israel apologized for the "error", the shooting provoked a crisis
in its relations with the UN and Britain. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, demanded
a full investigation. Mr Hook is the first foreign UN official to be killed since
the Palestinian intifada broke out 26 months ago.
Elsewhere on the West Bank, Israeli troops yesterday barred worshippers from
attending services in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They reoccupied
the city of Jesus Christ's birth on Thursday after a Hamas suicide bomber killed
11 Israelis on a Jerusalem bus.
Thursday's bus bombing provoked a series of attacks by angry Jews against Arabs
and their property in Jerusalem. Such reprisals have been surprisingly limited
inside Israel after previous atrocities.
On Saturday night, dozens of Jewish youths stormed an Arab-owned bakery near
the site of the bombing and caused heavy damage. Others had earlier tossed a firebomb
into the building. The two owners, who were on the premises, escaped unhurt. Police
arrested three Jewish suspects.
Other youths pelted an Arab car and attacked two female Arab students at the
Hebrew University who were returning to their dormitory. Across Jerusalem, in
the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Abu Tor, vandals slashed the tires of 14
cars owned by Palestinians.
© 2002 lndependent Digital (UK) Ltd