Protesters chase Palestinian minister out of Gaza

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Relatives of Killed Palestinian Hatem Salem, 28, arrive at the al-shifa hospital in Gaza City, following an Israeli air strike, on July 9, 2014. Eleven women and children were among 17 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, hiking the overall death toll to 38 in two days, the emergency services said. More than 300 people have been wounded. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS
Relatives of a killed Palestinian at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams

GAZA CITY, July 15, 2014 (AFP) – Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad cancelled a trip to Gaza City’s Shifa hospital on Tuesday after being confronted by angry protesters as he arrived from Egypt, officials said.

Witnesses said protesters threw shoes and eggs at Awad’s car as he entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Officials said he left the Palestinian territory shortly afterwards.

Protesters also gathered at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, carrying posters criticising Awad and the recently formed government of technocrats to which he belongs.

The government was sworn in on June 2 following a unity deal between the Islamist Hamas movement and president Mahmud Abbas which ended seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Gaza has been bombed, and Gaza has been destroyed, and now he comes to visit?” protester Ahmed Murtaja said incredulously.

“We don’t want this visit and all the Palestinian people are opposed to it and reject it,” he told AFP.

Protesters said they were angry that it had taken Awad eight days to visit Gaza, where 193 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes.

They also condemned the Palestinian president for failing to do more to halt the Israeli campaign, with some chanting: “Abu Mazen (Abbas) is a collaborator.”

In a statement, the health ministry condemned the “flagrant and brutal assault” on the minister and his delegation in Rafah, blaming the incident on “media affiliated with Hamas.”

Although the reconciliation agreement has held, a lot of bad blood remains between Hamas and the West Bank leadership.

“The ministry of health will continue to stand by our people in Gaza,” the statement said, pledging to secure medical supplies for the wounded.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, but a top member of its exiled politburo, Mussa Abu Marzuq, condemned the incident as “irresponsible and improper” on his Facebook page.

He called for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

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