GAZA CITY – Dozens of Palestinians threw shoes, sticks and stones at
UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon’s convoy as it crossed into the Gaza Strip on
Thursday, protesting against what they saw as a slight against Palestinians
jailed in Israel.
No one was injured during the hostile welcome and the
vehicles, which crossed into the Hamas-ruled territory from southern Israel,
pushed through the crowd and sped away.
Ban is visiting the region to try
to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“I thank the
people of Gaza for the warm welcome,” he told a news conference, provoking
laughter among local journalists. “I met many people who were waiting for me at
He went to say that he had sympathy for the complaints of
people in Gaza: “I fully share their concern and frustration,” he said. “This is
why I am here for the third time. This is a very dire economic, social,
Ban again called on Israel to lift all
restrictions on the Gaza Strip and urged Israel and the Palestinians to keep the
peace process alive.
“The leaders of the two parties are committed to
continue these negotiations. There are still concerns and lack of mutual trust,
but I am hopeful that this dialogue will continue in a sustainable way,” he
Israel should “provide some goodwill gestures as a way of
confidence-building measures,” Ban said, echoing pressure on Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu from the United States and European Union.
urge the people from Gaza to stop firing rockets into the Israeli side.
Indiscriminate killing of people, civilians, is not acceptable, for whatever
reasons. Likewise Israelis should fully guarantee the freedom, human rights and
decent life and dignity of the Palestinian people.”
Eight rockets were
fired into Israel on the eve of Ban’s visit, the IDF said.
Many of those
who protested as his UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being
held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans
accusing Ban of bias toward Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of
Following his visit to Gaza, Ban went to the Sapir
Academic College near Sderot, and said he knows that “fear and missile attacks
from Gaza continue to disrupt daily life for hundreds of thousands of people
around here, in this region.” He said that the way people in the western Negev
were living, thinking “constantly about where the nearest shelter is,” was not
the way “anyone, anywhere, should have to live.”
“Nothing justifies the
indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars into Israel,” he said. “It is
completely unacceptable to target and terrorize citizens on a near-daily basis.
It must stop. Any such attack must be condemned.”
Herb Keinon contributed
to this report