BEIT HANUN, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – A crowd of angry Palestinians protesters on Friday mobbed the car of French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie as she arrived in Gaza, an AFP correspondent said.
Carrying signs reading “Get out of Gaza” they stopped her car shortly after it passed through a Hamas checkpoint in the northern town of Beit Hanun, surrounding it and hammered on the sides with their fists.
Some demonstrators hurled shoes at the car and one jumped on top of it in a protest over a statement which was mistakenly attributed to the French minister when she met with the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in Jerusalem a day earlier.
At the meeting, father Noam Shalit asked Alliot-Marie to press the European Union to “condemn as a war crime” the detention of his son, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
However shortly afterwards, Israel’s public radio posted a story on its Arabic-language website mistakenly quoting Alliot-Marie as saying the European Union “must condemn the war crime that Hamas is committing by keeping Gilad Shalit in captivity.”
As the demonstrators shoved toward the car, two children, terrified and crying, were flung to the ground floor in front of the wheels of the lead vehicle convoy of white 4×4 jeeps, and stayed there for several minutes before being hauled away by their families.
Nearby, one of the protesters shouted slogans through a loudhailer, angrily denouncing the “war crimes” statement, while another was holding up a large picture of Alliot-Marie with a red cross plastered over her face.
The Arabic service of Israeli public radio and its website are monitored in the Palestinian territories, and the report was quickly picked and republished by other Arabic-language news sites, prompting a sharply-worded response from Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The Israeli soldier was captured in 2006 by militants base in Gaza and has been held by them ever since.
He has not been seen by outside observers or Red Cross representatives since his capture in a deadly raid along the Gaza border by Palestinian militants in June 2006.