Gazans pelt French minister's car with eggs and shoes
Reuters, Friday 21 Jan 2011
Protesters blocked FM Alliot-Marie's jeep in demonstration against her in response to comments made in support of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during her trip to the region

A crowd of Palestinian protestors pelted the car of French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie with eggs and shoes as she toured through the Gaza Strip on Friday, witnesses said.

The protesters were relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons who said they were furious over comments attributed to the minister a day earlier in Israel.

Dozens of Palestinians blocked her jeep and banged on it with their fists, shouting "Get out of Gaza!" as she arrived in the tiny territory, which is governed by Islamist group Hamas.

Demonstrators later briefly prevented her from leaving a hospital that she had just visited, throwing shoes at the windscreen of her vehicle and blocking its exit before Hamas security forces arrived and cleared the way.

It was a rare visit to Gaza by a foreign dignitary, with most government officials preferring to skip the coastal enclave and travel instead to the West Bank, which is controlled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Alliot-Marie is making her first trip to the region since being appointed foreign minister last year. On Thursday, she met the parents of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by resistance fighters from Hamas and other militant factions in 2006.

He is believed to still be alive and to be held in Gaza. Alliot-Marie was quoted by some media outlets as calling the detention a "war crime," a reference condemned by Hamas.

"We reject the statement and we urge France to reconsider such a position which does not serve the French role in the region," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Local Gazans said they were angry that she had not apparently referred to several thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Germany has tried for months to broker a deal to secure Shalit's release.