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Citing 'Israel Bias' Palestinians Greet UN Chief with Shoes in Gaza

- Common Dreams staff

Agencies report this morning that as UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon's envoy arrived in the Gaza Strip, angry Palestinians threw shoes, slippers, and stones to voice their anger at continued preference towards Israel and the international community's continued neglect of the plight of those living in Gaza and others languishing in Israeli prisons.

A shoe is thrown at the convoy of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon as it arrives at Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza today. (Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters) Agence France-Presse reports:

As the UN chief entered the Palestinian territory, protesters threw shoes, sand and small stones at his convoy, which was briefly held up before continuing on to Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

A crowd of around 50 demonstrators, most of them relatives of Palestinians in Israeli jails, said they were protesting the fact that Ban was not meeting with them or Palestinian prisoner groups during his brief trip to Gaza.

The UN chief's first stop in the territory was at the Amal (Hope) school in Khan Yunis, with a visit to a Japanese-funded housing project also on the agenda.

He is not scheduled to meet with any member of the Hamas-run government.

Haaretz reported that demonstrators:

Held signs in English and Arabic bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias toward Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners. Some posters read, "Ban Ki-moon, enough bias to Israel."

About 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails and securing their release is a highly emotive issue in Palestinian society.

The relatives formed a human chain at the crossing in an effort to block Ban's vehicle, but Hamas security forces accompanying the convoy moved them away so he could enter Gaza.

Ban was heading to the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, where he is to inaugurate a UN-sponsored construction project. He is visiting the region to try to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

No one was injured during the hostile welcome.

Radio Free Europe adds:

Throwing shoes at a person is considered a major sign of disrespect in Islamic culture.

The protesters were angry at what they regard as a failure by world leaders to act on behalf of their relatives and other Palestinains jailed in Israel.

Some 4,000 of what Israel describes as Palestinian "security prisoners" are held in Israel.

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