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Angry protestors block French FM's convoy in Gaza

01-21-2011 22:17 BJT

GAZA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Families of Palestinian prisoners, protesting near Gaza's northern borders with Israel, intercepted French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot Marie's convoy when it entered Gaza Friday.

Some 40 protestors, most of them women, are outraged because the minister met the family of Gilad Shalit, a captive Israeli soldier held in Gaza who holds the French nationality as well, and called for his release.

The Palestinians gathered near a Hamas checkpoint on the way to Erez crossing where the French diplomatic vehicles came from.

Holding banners and signs reading that Alliot Marie is unwelcome in Gaza, the demonstrators obstructed the convoy for nearly 10 minutes. A protestor raised a shoe in front of the minister's car while others lied on the street, before Hamas police asked them to let the convoy continue its journey to Gaza.

"She must apologize to the Palestinian people," said Saber Abu Karsh, an organizer of the protest. "She forgot the suffering of thousands of prisoners and highlighted the case of a soldier captured from a tank."

Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, captured Shalit from his army base on the Israeli side of Gaza borders. It calls on Israel to free some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier.

The French minister headed to the Gaza headquarters of the United Nations relief agency in Gaza, where she will see officials from international organizations operating here, economists and human rights activists. She is also scheduled to visit the French Cultural Center (CCF) in the city.

The minister, as all her European counterparts did, will not meet any member of the Hamas government or the Islamic movement, boosting conditions by the Quartet that Hamas must recognize Israel and give up violence before lifting international diplomatic isolation on Hamas.

The visit of Alliot Marie aims at inspecting the situation in Gaza six months after Israel relaxed its ground blockade on the enclave. The siege was placed when Shalit was captured, but Israel tightened it when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force in 2007.

Despite easing the closure, Israel prevents construction materials from being sent to Gaza markets. Some international organizations like the United Nations can get cement and steel through Israel for limited projects.

One of these projects is the rebuilding of parts of a hospital, which is funded by France. Alliot Marie is expected to visit the construction site at al-Quds hospital, which was destroyed during Israel's military operation here two years ago.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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