UN demands end to Israeli 'killing and beating' of staff
By Justin Huggler in Jerusalem
04 December 2002
United Nations workers issued a petition yesterday
demanding the Israeli army stop the "harassment, beating
and killing" of UN staff.
The petition comes less than two weeks after Iain Hook, a
British UN worker, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier
inside a UN compound as he tried to evacuate his staff.
"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.
An Israeli military source said: "We reject the suggestion
Israeli soldiers intentionally try to harass UN personnel.
We respect their work, and that includes our commitment to
But the petition reflects growing fear among UN staff, and
anger at the Israeli army's attempts to explain away Mr
Hook's death. 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.
The petition follows a UN demand for an explanation from
the Israeli army over the destruction of food worth
$270,000 (£172,000) that was to be distributed to
Soldiers blew up a warehouse containing more than 500 tons
of food that belonged to the UN's World Food Programme
(WFP) in the northern Gaza Strip at the weekend.
In a recent report, the American government aid
organisation USAid found that 20 per cent of Palestinian
children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
The report warned of a looming "humanitarian disaster".
In a statement that showed signs of official patience
wearing thin, 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
The warehouse was destroyed during a raid on the Gaza Strip
town of Beit Lahiya on Saturday night. It appears the
Israeli army destroyed the building because they believed a
wanted militant was hiding inside. There were apartments on
the upper floors.
"The landlord told the soldiers food from the UN was being
stored on the ground floor," said Jean-Luc Siblot, the
country director for WFP in Jerusalem.
"There was a WFP sticker on the door. There was a UN flag
on the building. They entered it and searched before
destroying the building. They knew. That's the fact I find
a little bit difficult to swallow."
WFP URGES RESTRAINT AFTER GAZA WAREHOUSE DESTRUCTION
Rome, 2 December 2002 - In response to the weekend
demolition of a WFP warehouse by the Israeli Defence
Forces, WFP is urging the Israeli government to observe
humanitarian principles and compensate the agency for its
Some 537 metric tons of food aid was being stored in a
warehouse in the town of Jaballia in the northern part of
the Gaza Strip which was targeted in a military incursion
the night of November 30.
“The fact that WFP was not permitted to remove the food is
worrisome,” said Jean-Luc Siblot, WFP country director.
"The food, which was housed on the ground floor of a
three-storey building and clearly marked as WFP property,
mainly comprised donations from the European Commission and
Sweden and was to be distributed by the Ministry of Social
Affairs to some 41,300 destitute people affected by the
ongoing humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip.”
The total value of the loss is estimated at US$271,000.
At approximately 22:50, the Israeli Defense Force
surrounded the area and six tanks were parked in front of
After requesting residents to evacuate their homes, IDF
soldiers entered the building and conducted a search of the
premises with dogs.
Despite the fact that the storage area was well marked as a
WFP warehouse, with a large WFP flag and three WFP stickers
on the doors, the soldiers proceeded to destroy the doors
of the warehouse using tanks.
The owner of the building witnessed dynamite sticks being
placed in various parts of the building and at
approximately midnight, several blasts were heard, followed
by a large explosion from a projectile dropped from a
The building collapsed and everything left in it, including
413 tonnes of wheat flour, 107 tonnes of rice and 17 tonnes
of vegetable oil, was destroyed.
“WFP should have been permitted to remove the food. This
act has been carried out against basic humanitarian
principles,” Siblot said.
“WFP is asking the Government of Israel to conduct a
thorough investigation of the incident and take full
responsibility for the losses incurred by the agency.”