Dozens of furious Palestinians protested against the French foreign minister on a visit to the Gaza Strip today, pelting her motorcade with eggs and narrowly missing her with a lobbed shoe.
The protesters, relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, were angry about comments Michele Alliot-Marie reportedly made the day before.
She was said to have voiced her support for Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier captured by the Islamic militant group Hamas and held in Gaza since 2006.
Protesters were waiting for Alliot-Marie as she crossed from Israel into Gaza through the Erez Crossing, lying on the road and jumping on her vehicle.
Hamas police eventually dispersed those protesters, but more gathered outside a United Nations office in Gaza City and later followed her to a nearby hospital, pelting her motorcade with eggs.
Television footage showed Alliot-Marie narrowly dodging a shoe thrown by a protester as she climbed into a jeep under heavy guard.
Schalit, the captive soldier, is an Israeli-French dual national and France has repeatedly called for his release.
Alliot-Marie made no public statement yesterday after meeting Schalit’s parents in Jerusalem, but the soldier’s father, Noam Schalit, said afterward that the minister had called on Hamas to allow the Red Cross to visit his son for the first time.
He referred to his son’s capture as a “war crime.”
The Palestinians linked the comments to Alliot-Marie, although she did not say anything publicly before or after the meeting.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the statements reflected a “total bias toward Israel” and ignored the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. “They are the true prisoners of war,” he said.
Hamas is demanding that Israel release hundreds of Hamas prisoners, including militants behind deadly attacks against Israelis, in return for Schalit. Talks facilitated by a German mediator have produced no result. Schalit has been seen by no one but his captors since 2006. A videotape released in 2009 showed him talking and reading a newspaper.
In keeping with the policy of the European Union, which considers Hamas a terror organisation, Alliot-Marie did not meet Hamas officials during her half-day visit.
Speaking at a French cultural centre in Gaza, Alliot-Marie called for the establishment of a Palestinian state and security for Israel.