Protesters disrupt French Foreign Minister's visit to Gaza Strip
French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie arrived in the Gaza Strip on Friday, but dozens of angry relatives of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails tried to stop her convoy, DPA reported.
The relatives were angered over remarks she made Thursday in support of an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza, without also mentioning the Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Witnesses said that as soon as the minister's convoy entered the strip through the Erez crossing point, the protesters jumped in front of the vehicles and lay down in the road. Some also threw shoes at the cars.
Police dispersed the demonstrators and the convoy, accompanied by United Nations vehicles, was able to proceed toward Gaza City.
The fundamentalist Hamas movement, which administers Gaza, is demanding that Israel free about 1,000 prisoners in exchange for the soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was seized in a cross-border raid in June 2006.
A Hamas statement sent to the media said Alliot-Marie's statements were "biased toward Israel," and criticised her for not mentioning the Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.
While in Gaza, Alliot-Marie is scheduled to hold talks with UN officials, visit the French Cultural center in Gaza City and inspect al-Quds Hospital.
She is not scheduled to meet with any officials from Hamas, which has governed the coastal strip since June 2007, when its operatives routed security personnel loyal to the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas is subject to a Western diplomatic boycott due to its refusal to accept demands to lay down its weapons, honour past Israeli-Palestinian agreements and accept Israel's right to exist.