The Guardian – 7 December 2002
Stand where the Israeli army sniper stood and the questions come flooding in.
Foremost among them is how the soldier who shot Iain Hook in the back in Jenin refugee camp could have mistaken the lanky British UN official with a mobile phone to his ear for a Palestinian youth waving a gun, as the army claims.
The sniper was only 25 metres from his victim, in daylight, and he had a telescopic sight.
British officials say they are determined that the Israelis will not be allowed to get away with a cursory investigation into Mr Hook’s killing a fortnight ago.
Whitehall, in turn, is under pressure from Hook’s two sons, both British officers, who visited the site of his death and came away sceptical about the Israeli version of events.
Sources in Whitehall say that the Foreign Office is unhappy about the delay in providing an explanation, and that British diplomats in Jerusalem meet the Israelis every day to press the issue.
“We will not let this be swept under the carpet. If it was a mistake, we want them to apologise and provide compensation,” the source said.
Hook, 54, from Felixstowe in Suffolk, died on November 22 after the Israeli army swept into Jenin refugee camp searching for a particular “terrorist”. The subsequent fighting was intense.
The army’s hunt focused on buildings around the small UN compound where Hook worked for The Crown Estate, the British agency which manages crown property on behalf of the government. He led a project to rebuild Jenin camp, large parts of which were destroyed by the Israeli army in April.
Two hours before he was shot, Hook took a decision that may have sealed his fate. He was in the compound with another Briton, Paul Wolstenholme, 30 Palestinian staff, and two young children. He spent the morning trying to persuade the army by phone to call a temporary ceasefire with the Palestinian gunmen.
He spoke repeatedly to the local Israeli liaison officer, Captain Peter Lerner, then tried to appeal to the soldiers directly.
But as he left the compound a Palestinian gunman ran up behind him and used him as cover to fire at the army.
Israeli soldiers have long regarded the UN as collaborators with the Palestinians. The sight of a gunman sheltering behind Hook would have reinforced their hostility.
When Hook failed to achieve a ceasefire, Palestinians trying to get in to the compound knocked a hole in the wall. He telephoned Capt Lerner and left a message.
“Hi Peter, it’s Iain here. I’m just making a progress report, really.
“We’re pinned down in the compound. The shabab [young men] 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.”
Twenty minutes later Hook walked out of his office and into the courtyard. Shortly after that, the sniper’s bullet caught him in the back.
Ate first the Israelis said he was shot outside the compound while standing among Palestinians.
When that was shown to be false, they changed their story, saying Hook’s final message proved that Palestinian fighters had overrun the UN compound and that the sniper had mistaken him for one of them and his mobile phone for a gun or grenade.
The UN says that is “totally incredible”. Its investigators have been told by staff, including Mr Wolstenholme, that no gunmen entered the site.
One question is why, if the Israeli army’s version is correct, was Hook alone killed, and none of the Palestinian gunmen supposedly around him?
And where, if the Palestinians were using the compound to attack the Israelis, is the evidence of such a battle? None of the surrounding homes carry any evidence of bullet holes.
Witnesses told the UN investigators that there was no gunfire around the compound for “tens of minutes” before Hook was hit.
Mr Wolstenholme told them that he looked up and saw the face of the soldier who fired the fatal shot.
The Israeli army says that it was told that Hook had been shot 10 minutes after it happened.
But soldiers prevented an ambulance reaching the compound for 25 minutes.
Hook had bled to death before the ambulance reached the hospital.