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French FM mobbed in Gaza over misquoted Shalit comments

Jan. 21, 2011 12:29 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2011 10:48 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an/AFP) -- Families of prisoners gathered in protest on Friday, throwing shoes and eggs at the car of French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie as she arrived in Gaza via the Erez crossing in the north.

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 Hanoun, surrounding it and hammering on the sides with their fists.

The protest was 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 afterward, 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 4x4 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.

During her visit to Gaza, the French official will visit the French Cultural Center, and has maintained that she will not be meeting with Hamas officials.

Hamas, Gaza resistance riled over misquoted Shalit comments

Word of the mistake had not reached Gaza ahead of the protest, with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri reiterating the party's stand on the continued holding of the soldier, saying "Shalit was captured in the battle field while he was killing Palestinian citizens on Gaza borders, while there are more than 8 thousand Palestinian prisoners who were arrested by the occupation from their homes without any guilt.”

Speaking for the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, Muhammad Al-Brim said the statement which Israel public radio had announced was a "comprehensive encouragement for the Israeli occupation policy.

The PRC issued a statement on the subject, saying "The French Foreign Minister knows very well that Gilad was in a military tank east of Rafah seizing Palestinians and killing them [when he was captured] and we have the total right to defend our nation."

The scolded the minister saying she "seems to have forgotten about all of the Palestinian detainees spending years in Israeli prisons."
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