Dozens of Palestinians threw shoes, sticks and stones at U.N. 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 the entrance.
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, humanitarian problem.
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 said.
Israel should provide some goodwill gestures as a way of confidence-building measures, Ban said, echoing pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the United States and European Union.
I would 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.
The Israeli army said eight rockets were fired into Israeli territory on the eve of Ban's visit.
Many of those who protested as his U.N. convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners.
About 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails and securing their release is a highly emotive issue in Palestinian society.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Ari Rabinovitch and Douglas Hamilton.; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)