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Palestinian Crowd Confronts French FM in Gaza

  • Robert Berger

Angry Palestinian demonstrators mob French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's armored car at Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip, 21 Jan 2011

Angry Palestinian demonstrators mob French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's armored car at Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip, 21 Jan 2011

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie got a shocking welcome during a tour of Gaza.

A crowd of angry Palestinians blocked the road as she entered Gaza from Israel and pelted her car with eggs and shoes. Police from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas eventually dispersed the crowd, but there was a similar protest when Alliot-Marie arrived in Gaza City. One member of her entourage was injured and taken to a hospital in Israel.

The Palestinians were angry over reports that the French foreign minister had sharply condemned the detention of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held for nearly five years in Gaza. Alliot-Marie had met with Shalit's parents on Thursday, and his father had described his detention as a "war crime." Palestinians linked the comments to Alliot-Marie, though she did not say anything publicly.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the statement reflects a "total bias toward Israel."

He said there are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails and they are the true prisoners of war.

Hamas has demanded the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the captive Israeli soldier, but a deal remains elusive because Israel refuses to release top militants involved in deadly attacks.

The French foreign ministry played down the Gaza incident. It said the "war crimes" comments were mistakenly attributed to Alliot-Marie, and the violence was the result of a "misunderstanding."

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