Around 200 muslim extremists chanted slogans threatening the lives of French nationals in Gaza during a rally on Monday, while holding up pictures of the Paris terrorists. The protest in front of the French cultural center in Gaza city was organized as a reaction to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad published by the magazine Charlie Hebdo last week.
"Leave Gaza, you French, or we will slaughter you by cutting your throats," chanted the protesters.
Palestinian police arrested several dozens of protesters who tried to storm the French cultural center. Many of the activists were dressed in uniforms similar to those of the Islamic State fighters, and waved the black banners of the organization.
"Today, we are telling France and world countries that while Islam orders us to respect all religions, it also orders us to punish and kill those who assault and offend Islam's Prophet Muhammad," said one of the protesters, Abu Abdallah al-Makdissi.
A scuffle with the police broke out close to the end of the demonstration, with police firing in the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters. The Islamists also torched a US flag, while chanting "God is great".
Rivalry with Hamas
While the Gaza Salafists support the global religious war waged by Islamic State and al Qaeda, they are in conflict with Hamas which is currently in power in Palestine. Their political rivals have shown little tolerance for the Salafi movements, leading to occasional firefights.
The French cultural center is the biggest Western public institution in the Gaza Strip, and it has been temporarily closed after arson attacks in October and December. Unknown vandals wrote graffiti on the outside walls of the building, praising the Prophet Muhammad and sending the French journalists "to hell".
Gaza is currently home to some 40 French citizens.
dj/bw (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)