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November 26, 2002

New Evidence in the Death of the UN Worker

An IDF officer may have received a voicemail message from the UN worker killed last week outside the UN compound. The message, which was timed and dated, indicated the aid worker was notifying the officer that Palestinians were breaking into the compound.
A United Nations worker killed in the Jenin refugee camp during an Israeli-Palestinian clash phoned an Israeli army officer minutes before he was killed and said Palestinians were breaking into the UN compound, according to a tape released by the military Tuesday.

Iain Hook, British senior manager for UNRWA, the UN body that helps Palestinian refugees, was killed by Israeli gunfire Friday. The circumstances of his death are an issue of hot dispute.

The Israeli military admitted that the shooting was a mistake, but said soldiers returning fire coming from the UN compound targeted Hook, mistakenly believing the cell phone he was holding was a weapon.

Palestinians deny that they fired at the Israeli soldiers from the camp. UN officials also deny the charge. Paul McCann, a UN spokesman, called the allegations that Palestinians were inside the compound "incredible." The facility is surrounded by a 2.5-meter-tall (8-foot-tall) high wall.

But in a voice mail received by Capt. Peter Lerner, the military's liaison with international groups, a person identifying himself as "Iain" says that Palestinian youths "have knocked a hole in the wall, which I'm not happy about at all. I'm trying to keep them out."[...]

Lerner's voice mail service automatically dated the call at 12:53 p.m. on Friday, less than an hour before Hook was shot and killed. The caller said, '``'Hi Peter, it's Iain here. I'm just making a progress report, really. We're pinned down in the compound. The shabab have knocked a hole in the wall, which I'm not happy about at all. I'm trying to keep them out, and I will just keep my people pinned down in the corner until I hear from you. OK? Over."

Then the automated voice mail service gave the number of the phone from which the call was made. A call late Tuesday by the AP to the number was answered by another UNRWA official who refused to respond to questions.

While the IDF is conducting an investigation to attempt to discover the truth, they are encountering roadblocks.
Rene Aquarone, a spokeswoman for UNRWA in Geneva, said Tuesday that Hook was shot in the back while he was trying to arrange for the evacuation of UN staff. She said the Israelis prevented an ambulance from reaching the scene for some time.[...]

Lerner said that the Israeli military is conducting a complete investigation of the incident, but complained that the United Nations has not allowed the army to talk to other international workers at the UNRWA compound in the Jenin camp.

The UN has, typically, already made up its mind what happened and isn't about to let the truth get in its way.