French diplomats organise unofficial tribute for Palestinian colleagues killed in Israel's war on Gaza

French diplomats organise unofficial tribute for Palestinian colleagues killed in Israel's war on Gaza
French diplomats organised a ceremony to honour their slain colleagues in Gaza, bypassing their ministry.
3 min read
28 February, 2024
A pro-Palestine protest took place last week in front of France's ministry of Foreign Affairs (Photo by Mohamad Alsayed/Anadolu via Getty Images)

French diplomats have finally held an unofficial tribute for Palestinian colleagues killed in Israel's assault on Gaza, which began in October.

Earlier, the French parliament had refused to observe a minute of silence to honour one of the consular employees, Ahmed Abu Shamla, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

Employees of the Foreign Affairs Ministry took part in a minute of silence at the ministry's various locations in Paris and embassies and consulates around the world on Tuesday at noon (Paris time).

Many diplomats also posted photos of the tribute on social media, expressing their solidarity and grief over the loss of their colleagues.

Several embassies also tweeted the names of their deceased colleagues on their official social media accounts.

"Twelve years ago, when I left Jerusalem, I went one last time to Gaza to say bye to colleagues. We took this picture with Ahmad Abushamla. A good, fair man, who kept France alive in Gaza. How sad," Damien Cristofari, a senior diplomat at the French embassy in the US, posted on X.

Ahmed Abu Shamla, Rami Fayyad, Fathia Azaiza and Mohamed Qreqa were working for the French foreign ministry's consular office and cultural institute in Gaza, the Institut Francais.

Azaiza and Fayyad were both French language teachers, and Qreqa was a cultural facilitator. 

Abu Shamla had been working for the Gaza consular office for over 20 years before he died on 16 December from the wounds he sustained in an Israeli strike. 

The house where he had taken refuge in the southern Gaza Strip after he was displaced from his home was targeted by an Israeli bombardment on the evening of 13 December.

France had previously agreed to evacuate Abu Shamla and his close family to France, but not his adult sons, so Abu Shamla decided to stay with his children.

Although French authorities acknowledged his death "with great sadness" in a statement, the president of the French parliament initially refused to hold a minute of silence in parliament at a deputy's request on December 18, sparking outrage in France.

Tuesday's unofficial ceremony was organised by a coalition of various labour unions and announced last week

French media reported that the unions' initial request to the foreign minister, Stephane Sejourne, to organise an official tribute at the ministry hadn't been responded to in a timely fashion.

After news of the unofficial tribute was released, the ministry announced on Friday that it would also hold an official commemoration on 4 March.