Ban is scheduled to visit UN facilities within the Gaza Strip before heading to the Israeli town of Sderot [Reuters]

Protesters have thrown shoes and small stones at the convoy of Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, as he entered the Gaza Strip for a visit.

An AFP correspondent on the Gaza side of the Erez crossing from Israel said a crowd of around 50 people, many of them relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, threw objects at Ban's car as he drove past them.

Ban was scheduled to visit UN facilities within the Gaza Strip before heading to the southern Israeli town of Sderot where he was to meet students and journalists.

The demonstrators were protesting what they called Ban's refusal to meet with them to discuss the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Some held signs in English reading "Ban Ki-moon, enough bias for Israel."

Stalled negotiations

Ban's convoy, briefly held up by the demonstrators, was able to continue past the protest and onwards to Khan Younis, where the UN chief is scheduled to visit a school and a Japanese-funding housing project.

He is visiting Gaza as part of a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories intended to help kickstart stalled negotiations.

Ban said he was hopeful for the talks to continue.

"There are still some concerns for lack of future trust, but am hopeful that this dialogue will continue in a sustainable way," he said.

"For the talks to move ahead continuously and sustainably, I emphasise the importance for the Israeli government to create a politically conducive atmosphere."

In his second term as head of the UN, Ban said on Wednesday that peace in the Middle East was one of his main priorities for 2012.

Source: Agencies