Felixstowe UN worker sniper claim

FELIXSTOWE United Nations worker Iain Hook may have been killed by a sniper as part of concerted attacks by Israelis on aid teams, it was claimed today.

FELIXSTOWE United Nations worker Iain Hook may have been killed by a sniper as part of concerted attacks by Israelis on aid teams, it was claimed today.

The claim was made as UN workers issued a petition demanding the Israeli army stop the "harassment, beating and killing" of UN staff.

Mr Hook, from Felixstowe Ferry, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier as he tried to as he tried to evacuate his staff from a UN compound at Jenin.

An inquest this week heard he had been killed by a single gunshot wound to his abdomen.

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At first it was believed he may have been shot after an Israeli soldier thought his mobile phone was a grenade, but now there are assertions that the gunman was not inside the compound but a hidden sniper.

"For two years, United Nations staff have been subject to escalating harassment and violence by Israel's military, so that the protection supposed to be afforded by the blue letters of the UN is being steadily eroded," said the petition, which was signed by 64 UN staff working in Israel and the occupied territories.

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The alleged targeting of aid workers is denied by the Israeli military forces who say they respect the UN's work and are committed to its staff's safety.

But the UN has dismissed as "not credible" claims by the Israeli army that Palestinian gunmen were inside the UN compound when Mr Hook was shot and fear the soldiers' motives were more sinister.

The UN is also demanding an explanation from the Israeli army over the destruction of food worth £172,000 that was to be distributed to Palestinians.

Soldiers blew up a warehouse containing more than 500 tons of food that belonged to the UN's World Food Programme in the northern Gaza Strip.

Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said he "once again" called on the Israeli authorities "to live up to their commitments and obligations to facilitate emergency humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territory".

Mr Hook, 54, was head of a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) project rebuilding the refugee camp in Jenin on the West Bank.

Initial reports of his death said he and fellow UN workers became trapped after Israeli troops surrounded the nearby hideout of a wanted Islamic Jihad leader suspected of masterminding a suicide bombing which killed 14 people.

Palestinian gunmen fired at the troops and the UN office was caught in the middle of the resulting gun battle.

Witnesses at the scene said Mr Hook was trying to negotiate the release of his team from the refugee camp when he was shot and reported that his body lay in the road for 20 minutes. He died in an ambulance on his way to hospital.

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