Iain Hook

Iain John Hook (1948 – 22 November 2002) was working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as project manager in the rebuilding of Jenin Refugee Camp in West Bank, which was home to 13,000 Palestinian refugees. He was shot and killed by an Israel Defense Forces sniper, during a battle in Jenin on 22 November 2002. A United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel was vetoed by the United States. In 2005 an English inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

Iain Hook
The identity card of UNRWA's Jenin project manager, Iain John Hook.
Iain John Hook

Died22 November 2002 (aged 54)
Cause of deathGunshot wound
OccupationProject Manager
Years active????–2002
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)

Early lifeEdit

Iain John Hook (born in 1948, Essex) of Felixstowe, Suffolk, was married and father of three sons and a daughter; two of his sons are British military officers.[1] Prior to his work for the United Nations, Iain Hook was a British paratrooper. Hook supervised the reconstruction of a hospital complex in Pristina, Kosovo, in 1999, and also worked on projects in East Timor, Afghanistan, and Serbia.[2]

Death and subsequent eventsEdit

UNRWA WorkEdit

Iain Hook was working for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is "created to administer Palestinian refugee camps set up after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war", and which was home to 13,000 Palestinian refugees, as project manager in rebuilding of Jenin refugee camp in West Bank.[3][4] In October 2002, Hook arrived at the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin to oversee the rebuilding of the camp.[5]

Death of Iain HookEdit

On 22 November 2002, Hook left a voice message with Israeli authorities that Palestinian militants ("shabab"-youth) had "knocked a hole in the wall" and "pinned down" his men.[6][7][8] During a gun-battle with Islamic Jihad militants whom Israel says were firing at troops from inside the UN compound, an Israeli military sniper killed Hook.[4][9][10] Israeli Army radio claimed that the sniper who killed him mistook his cell phone for a handgun or grenade.[4][11][12] The United Nations stated that there were no gunmen at the compound, and claims that the shooting was a mere mistake; Hook was shot in the back by a sniper with a scoped rifle, from a distance of 20 meters.[1][4] Co-workers evacuated Hook through the hole in the wall, but he died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen before reaching a hospital.[6][13]

Ambulance controversyEdit

United Nations immediately arranged an ambulance for patient evacuation but Israeli soldiers on the field delayed the ambulance sent to evacuate Hook and changed its route.[4][14]

UNRWA immediately arranged for an ambulance to evacuate the wounded staff member but the IDF soldiers on the ground refused immediate access for the ambulance and there appears to have been a delay before the staff member could be evacuated by an alternative route. Sadly, he died before arrival at the hospital. It is not known at this time whether the delay resulted in the death.[14]

— UNRWA Press Statement 22 November 2002

The UNRWA statement was later echoed by then UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan in New York City, while Israel military officials have denied the charge.[4] Socialist Worker stated that the army forced the ambulance to wait 25 minutes while Hook "bled to death".[15]

Diplomatic responseEdit

Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned the British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw to express regrets over Hook's death.[4] The United States vetoed "with regret" a United Nation Security Council resolution proposed by Syria condemning Israel for the killing; there were 12 votes in favor of the resolution, and 2 abstentions, in the 15 nation vote.[9][16] United States ambassador John D. Negroponte said Syria and the Palestinians seemed "more intent on condemning Israeli occupation than on ensuring the safety of United Nations personnel."[9] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan released a statement demanding that Israel punish those responsible for the killing.[17] Israel, however, found that "no criminal act had been committed" and no criminal charges were filed.[18]

More than sixty United Nations workers wrote a letter criticizing Israeli troops for "senseless" and "wanton" behavior, complaining of abuse and humiliation.[6] Israel responded by releasing to newspapers what the New York Times called a "damning intelligence report" alleging UNRWA operations being used as cover for "Palestinian terrorists", including smuggling arms in UN ambulances and hosting meetings of Tanzim in UN buildings.[6] The United Nations internal report on the matter was the subject of controversy: the initial version stated that peace activists in the compound were bringing young Palestinian men into the compound through a hole in the wall. Following protests by UNWRA staff, the claim was dropped from the report.[1]

Coroner's inquestEdit

Coroner Dr Peter Dean opened the inquest at Ipswich Crown Court.[19] In 2005, Irish activist Caoimhe Butterly gave written eyewitness testimony in the inquest into the killing of Iain Hook by an Israeli military sniper.[10] After the court proceedings jurors unanimously delivered the verdict that the Israeli military was fully accountable for the unlawful killing of Iain Hook.[3] Dr Peter Hansen, former Commissioner General of the UNRWA, said that "over the past four years 13 UNRWA workers, including Mr. Hook, had been shot in similar circumstances by the Israeli army". In a statement after the verdict, Paul Wolstenholme, a colleague of Hook who was in the compound at time of the shooting, said the Israeli sniper would have known he was not a Palestinian. "It was not a case of mistaken identity, it was a deliberate act," he said.[3]


The Israeli government made an ex gratia payment to the Hook family in an agreement with the British government. The Foreign Office (UK) did not reveal the details under the Freedom of Information Act for "releasing information on the death that could damage Britain's relations with another state", while John Gillan, of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimed other information on the death could not be released which is related to the "formulation or development of government policy."[18][20]

See alsoEdit

  • Tom Hurndall – British ISM volunteer fatally wounded in Gaza by IDF sniper, 11 April 2003.
  • James Miller - British filmmaker fatally shot in Gaza by IDF sniper, 2 May 2003.


  1. ^ a b c McGrael, Chris (2003-05-07). "Why was an unarmed Briton shot in the back?". The Guardian. London (7 May). Retrieved 2008-12-13. "No one believes the Israeli story that the sniper thought Iain was holding a gun," said one UN official close to the investigation.
  2. ^ Rigby, Nic (2005-12-16). "Questions over UN worker's death". BBC News (16 December). Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  3. ^ a b c "British UN worker unlawfully shot". BBC News (16 December). 2005-12-16. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Fisher, Ian (2002-11-24). "Israel admits one of its soldiers killed U.N. officer in Jenin". New York Times (November 24). Retrieved 2008-12-13. An Israeli soldier then fired at Mr. Hook inside the compound when he saw "an object which resembles a pistol" in his hand, the statement read.
  5. ^ Fisher, Ian (November 23, 2002). "U.N. Aide and 3 Others Die in West Bank and Gaza Violence". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  6. ^ a b c d Wines, Michael (January 4, 2003). "Killing of U.N. Aide by Israel Bares Rift With Relief Agency". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  7. ^ Lavie, Mark (November 27, 2002). "UN worker phoned IDF minutes before he was killed". Jerusalem Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  8. ^ "IDF has tape of UNRWA man's last moments". Haaretz. Associated Press. November 27, 2002. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Preston, Julia (2002). "U.S. vetoes condemnation of Israel for U.N. death". New York Times (December 21). Retrieved 2001-12-13.
  10. ^ a b "UN relief worker 'refused flak jacket'". BBC News (13 December). 2005-12-13. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  11. ^ Fisher, Ian (November 27, 2002). "West Bank Explosion Kills 2 'Most Wanted'". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10. The military has said it fired on Mr. Hook, mistakenly believing he had a gun or grenade in his hand.
  12. ^ "Killing 'no accident'". Mirror (December 13). 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  13. ^ "Inquest opens after West Bank killing". BBC News. December 2, 2002. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  14. ^ a b "Press Statement: Death of a UN worker". UNRWA. UN. November 22, 2002. Archived from the original on March 14, 2004.
  15. ^ "Iain Hook: Blair buries evidence of murder by Israel". Socialist Worker. April 2, 2005. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  16. ^ "US vetoes anti-Israel UN resolution", BBC News, 21 December 2002
  17. ^ Wines, Michael (December 3, 2002). "Four Palestinians Die in Clashes With Israelis". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  18. ^ a b "Secret settlement over UN worker". BBC News. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  19. ^ "Inquest opens after West Bank killing". BBC News. 2002-12-02. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  20. ^ "Freedom Of Information Act Decision Notice: Information from the FCO relating to the death of Iain Hook" (PDF). Information Commissioner’s Office. July 23, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-25.

Further readingEdit