Beit Hanoun (Gaza Strip): Dozens of Palestinians on Thursday tried to block UN chief Ban Ki-moon from entering the Gaza Strip and pelted his armoured convoy with shoes and sticks, accusing him of being unfairly biased toward Israel.
The incident cast a shadow over Ban's visit to Gaza, which was meant to draw attention to humanitarian issues in the crowded seaside strip. Ban was in Gaza on the second day of a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
About 40 relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for a range of violent attacks gathered at the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel as Ban's convoy arrived, hoisting posters with pictures of their loved ones and signs in English and Arabic reading, "Ban Ki-moon, enough bias to Israel."
Palestinian demonstrators surround the convoy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as it enters the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza on Thursday, February 2, 2012. Relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli jails flung slippers on Thursday at an armored convoy carrying Ban and tried to block the vehicles from entering the Gaza Strip. (Associated Press)
Some swung their signs and wooden sticks at the armoured convoy. Three people threw slippers at his car and another hurled a boot an insulting gesture in Arab culture that is associated with an Iraqi protester who hurled his shoes at former US President George W Bush at a news conference in Baghdad in 2008.
The Gaza prisoners' relatives, angry that Ban would not be meeting with them, formed a human chain at the crossing in an effort to block his vehicle, but security forces from the ruling Hamas militant group moved them away so Ban could enter.
"We came here in a symbolic message to Mr Ban Ki-moon that Palestinians from Gaza want to have the right to visit their children and loved ones in Israeli jails," said Jamal Farwana, a spokesman for Gaza prisoners' families.
Israel holds about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, after recently freeing more than 1,000 in exchange for a captive Israeli soldier. Some of those still in prison were sentenced for attacks that killed dozens of Israelis.