- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

LONDON U.N. refugee officials in the West Bank, while denying that Palestinian gunfire from their compound prompted an Israeli soldier to kill a British U.N. official last week, conceded six months ago they could do little to keep militants out of the compound.
During a visit in May by two reporters to the same camp where 46-year-old U.N. reconstruction officer Iain Hook was fatally shot on Friday, young men lounged with Kalashnikovs on the steps of buildings and cheerfully agreed to be photographed and interviewed.
Armed Palestinian Authority security officials drove into the compound unchallenged, while other gunmen watched with interest as a British U.N. munitions expert disarmed ordnance.
"We are not in charge of the security of the camp," said Charles Kapes, an American who at the time was the acting commander of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) facility.
"The Palestinian Authority is in charge of those matters, except when Israel is here. We cannot stop armed men coming in and out of the [Jenin refugee] camp, or even our compound."
Control of security in the compound will be a key issue in a U.N. investigation begun yesterday into Friday's shooting, in which Israel admits its soldier shot Mr. Hook after mistaking a cell phone in the hand for a weapon. Some reports said he was shot in the back.
But while expressing "regret" over the killing, Israel's military insisted its troops had come under fire from militants sheltering inside the UNRWA compound or from a U.N. trailer parked on the perimeter. The Israeli soldier responsible remains on duty.
An UNRWA official described the Israeli version of events as "incredible."
The outcome of the investigation could affect a planned increase in U.S. funding for the U.N. agency, which has been opposed by some members of Congress.
After Israel began its military offensive into the West Bank in April, prompted by a wave of suicide bombings that left more than 100 Israelis dead in 30 days, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced a $30 million contribution to UNRWA in addition to $80 million that the United States was already contributing this year.
Israel has often charged that UNRWA has been hostile to it and has sheltered or supported Palestinian gunmen. During its military offensive into the Jenin camp in April, Israel claimed it had found weaponry stored in plastic bins inside the U.N. headquarters.
Israeli antagonism toward the refugee agency has its roots in a more generalized distrust of the United Nations. The General Assembly, especially after 1967, has passed numerous hostile resolutions with support from Arab, Third World and communist countries.
UNRWA, for its part, publicly accused Israel of deliberately firing artillery into a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon in April 1996, killing more than 100 civilians. Israel claimed it had been responding to mortar fire coming from inside the camp which the United Nations denied.
In May, Mr. Kapes pointed out the crushed remains of a clearly marked U.N. vehicle outside the Jenin compound.
"The Israelis deliberately pulled that vehicle out of the locked garage over there," another U.N. official said. "They put it in the main square of the refugee camp and rolled a tank over it."


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