The Latest: China calls for UN council action, slams US

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People hold placards and Palestinian flags as they march in solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the ongoing conflict with Israel, during a demonstration in London, Saturday, May 15, 2021.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The Latest on the continuing violence between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers amid the latest escalation in the Middle East:

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BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on the U.N. Security Council to seek an early de-escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. He also blamed the U.S. for the council’s lack of action so far.

“Regrettably, the council has so far failed to reach an agreement, with the United States standing on the opposite side of international justice,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Wang as saying in a phone conversation Saturday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

He expressed support for a two-state solution, and said China, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, expects all parties to speak with a unified voice when the council discusses the conflict later Sunday.

Wang said the Security Council should reconfirm a two-state solution and urge Palestinians and Israelis to resume talks on that basis as soon as possible.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli warplanes have struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City early Sunday.

According to photos circulated by residents and journalists, the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa, the largest hospital in the strip.

The Health Ministry said the latest airstrikes left at least two dead and 25 wounded, including children and women. It said rescuers are still digging through the rubble and had so far pulled up five more wounded.

Two hours into the heavy bombardment, there has been no comment from the Israeli military.

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UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. spokesman says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City housing offices of several international media organizations and residential apartments, and is “dismayed” by the increasing number of civilian casualties.

“The secretary-general reminds all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, an Israeli airstrike pulverized a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media after warning that it was being targeted.

Guterres singled out the death of 10 members of the same family including children as a result of an Israeli airstrike Friday in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday.

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LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of protesters shut down traffic as they took to the streets of Los Angeles, calling for an end to Israeli airstrikes over the Gaza Strip.

The protesters waved flags and signs that said “free Palestine” and shouted “long live intifada,” or uprising. They marched from outside the federal building to the Israeli Consulate in the western part of the city on Saturday.

Police shut down traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, a major thoroughfare, and urged motorists to avoid the area. Police from multiple agencies were monitoring the ongoing demonstration.

Also on Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Boston’s Copley Square and walked a short distance through the streets to the location of the Israeli Consulate for New England, blocking traffic.

Footage on social media shows protesters then unfurled a banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag with the words “Free Palestine” while standing on top of the awning of the building where the consulate is located.

Other smaller protests in support of Palestinians took place in Hartford and Pittsburgh, where footage shows one speaker at the protest called on lawmakers to put restrictions on how Israel can spend aid from the United States.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the ongoing campaign against Palestinian militants, now in its sixth day, will “continue as long as needed.”

The prime minister spoke on Saturday from Israel’s defense ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv and issued a warning to leaders of Gaza’s militant Hamas group after a series of airstrikes targeted high-level officials and commanders.

Netanyahu says: “You cannot hide — not above ground, and not underground. Nobody is immune.”

The Israeli leader added that there was “no more just or moral campaign” than Israel’s against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and thanked President Joe Biden and other world leaders for their support.

Netanyahu’s remarks came at the end of a day that saw Israeli airstrikes target and destroy a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. Everyone was safely evacuated from the building before the strike hit.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s Electric Company says that high voltage lines supplying the Gaza Strip with electricity were damaged by rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

The company released a statement on Saturday saying five of the 10 lines have been damaged, in the latest escalation of fighting and that the company cannot fix them because there is no access to the area.

Damage to the power lines came amid days of intense fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s only other source of electricity — besides the power provided by Israel — is its single power plant, which has been working only partially due to fuel shortages. However, both sources are insufficient to cover Gazans’ needs.

Outages of at least eight hours have long been a daily occurrence in the strip and with the power plant not working at regular capacity, rolling blackouts have increased to 12-15 hours per day recently.

With the latest hits on the power line, more outages are expected.

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BEIRUT — A top Hamas leader says militant groups in the Gaza Strip will not retreat in the face of attacks by Israeli troops, warning that their fighters still haven’t used all their force at their disposal.

Ismail Haniyeh spoke during a rally attended by hundreds in the gas-rich nation of Qatar on Saturday night. He said that “resistance is the shortest road to Jerusalem” and that Palestinians will not accept anything less than a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

He added that “the Zionist enemy struck Gaza, flattened towers and carried out massacres,” thinking that this will make militant groups retreat. He said that as the Israeli attacks escalate, “the resistance will increase (its force) to a higher level.”

Haniyeh also said that despite the fact that Gaza has been under siege for nearly 15 years, militant groups will not retreat.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has expressed “strong support” for Israel’s strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory, but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House says Biden on Saturday also shared his “grave concern” about intercommunal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank. Biden and Netanyahu also discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should “be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the PA’s rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The White House says Biden “expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve” and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken on the phone with President Joe Biden and urged the U.S. to intervene in the conflict and “put an end to Israeli attacks on Palestinians.”

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa says Abbas on Saturday updated Biden on the escalations across the Palestinian territories and said he was working to halt “the Israeli aggression against our people and to reach a cease-fire.”

The report says Abbas also told Biden that “security and stability will be achieved when the Israeli occupation ends,” adding that Palestinians are ready and willing to work toward peace with international mediators.

Biden stressed the need to achieve calm and reduce violence in the Mideast, noting intensive American diplomatic efforts to that end. That’s according to the Wafa statement.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar’s foreign minister has met with a top Hamas official.

That’s according to a statement by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday. It said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in the capital, Doha.

The Foreign Ministry said Sheikh Mohammed “stressed the need for the international community to act urgently to stop the repeated brutal Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza.”

There was no mention of the Israeli strike that toppled a Gaza tower that was home to offices of both The Associated Press, Doha’s Al-Jazeera satellite news network and others.

Meanwhile, Arab League chief said Saturday that Arab states’ ambassadors to the United Nations are trying to rally international support for Palestinians amid Israeli attacks on Gaza .

Ahmed Aboul Gheit called upon the U.N. Security Council to “fulfill its responsibilities” in holding Israel accountable in a session scheduled on Sunday to discuss the violence.

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CAIRO — An Egyptian intelligence official says efforts to reach a cease-fire between Israel and the Gaza militant groups are ongoing and have gained a push with the arrival of a U.S. envoy to Tel Aviv.

The official said Saturday that Egypt and other mediators hope that the U.S. will pressure Israel to end the fighting.

The official said it’s up the U.S. “to order Israel to stop such disastrous” actions ” and added that “the situation has started to get out of control in the occupied Palestinian territories.” referring to protests in West Bank, Jerusalem and other areas.

He says the mediators do not expect a cease-fire before the U.N. Security Council meeting Sunday.

The official says Egypt is now seeking an hours-long lull to evacuate severely wounded people from Gaza. He says Egypt is pushing for such a humanitarian pause overnight as ambulances are waiting on the Egyptian side of the border.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. U.S. diplomat Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs. is now in the region to try resolve the escalation.

— Samy Magdy in Cairo;

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BEIRUT — Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians have protested along the Lebanon-Israel border, with some climbing a border wall and triggering Israeli fire that wounded one person.

The protest on Saturday evening in the Lebanese border village of Adaisseh saw hundreds marching and waving Palestinian, Lebanese and yellow flags of the militant Hezbollah group.

Some protesters climbed a high border wall where they placed Palestinian and Hezbollah flags.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that Israeli troops fired warning shots near Adaisseh, wounding one person who was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Lebanese and Palestinians from around Lebanon have been heading to the border to protest against Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip over the past days. On Friday, Israeli troops opened fire at protesters who crossed a border fence, killing a 21-year-old Hezbollah member.

Earlier Saturday, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border.

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VIENNA, Austria — An international network of journalists and media executives “vehemently” condemn the Israeli airstrike on a Gaza City building housing the offices of The Associated Press and broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Barbara Trionfi, the executive director of the International Press Institute, said after Saturday’s airstrike that “the targeting of news organizations is completely unacceptable, even during an armed conflict.”

She added that “it represents a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms.”

Three heavy missiles struck and destroyed the 12-story building about an hour after the Israeli military telephoned the owner to warn a strike was imminent. AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building, which also contained residential apartments.

AP Vice President and Editor at Large John Daniszewski, who chairs IPI’s North American Committee and is special envoy for journalist safety, said “there is no doubt that Israeli forces were aware that the media offices would be destroyed.”

The Israeli military said the militant group Hamas was operating inside the building, but it provided no evidence to back up the claim.

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TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian state TV channel says the head of the expeditionary force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has had a phone call with the head of the militant Hamas group.

Al-Alam, the Arabic-language service of the Iranian state television, reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke by telephone with Quds Force commander Gen. Esmail Ghaani.

Ghaani reportedly praised Hamas as offering a “unique and successful answer” to Israel.

Hamas officials have praised Iran for providing it weapons and aid in its fighting against Israel, Tehran’s regional rival.

The report comes amid a dramatic escalation in the confrontation between Israel and Hamas this week. An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets, including Al-Jazeera and also Kuwait’s state television.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The foreign ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are calling for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

That’s according to a statement on Saturday carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

It says that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan had spoken to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

It said the two both agreed that an immediate cease-fire was needed. Egypt has been trying to negotiate a stop to the fighting.

The Saudi statement also said the two diplomats called on “the international community to confront the aggressive Israeli practices against the brotherly Palestinian people.”

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JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have spoken about the situation with Gaza.

According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the Israeli leader updated Biden on the developments and actions that Israel has taken and intends to take. It says Netanyahu also thanked Biden for the “unreserved support of the United States for our right to defend ourselves.”

It says Netanyahu emphasized in the conversation that Israel is doing everything to avoid harming the uninvolved. The statement added “the proof of this is that in the towers where there are terrorist targets attacked by the IDF, they are evacuated from the uninvolved.”

The Biden-Netanyahu call came just hours after an Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An American organization promoting literature and freedom of speech has called Israel’s airstrike that destroyed a building in Gaza that was home to the offices of The Associated Press and other media “deeply disturbing.”

PEN America said in a statement after Saturday’s strike that the only reason the world knows about the ongoing fighting between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel is due to the “tireless, indefatigable work of journalists, risking their lives to inform the world.”

The organization demanded a detailed accounting of why Israel launched the strike.

PEN America added that “the resulting destruction will hobble the ability of professional journalists to do their work documenting a fraught, complex conflict at a critical time.”

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Al-Jazeera has called the Israeli bombing that destroyed its office in Gaza a “clear act” to stop journalists from reporting on the conflict between it and Hamas.

Al-Jazeera issued the statement Saturday night after an Israeli strike that destroyed the building that was also home to the Gaza offices of The Associated Press.

The Doha-based broadcaster said in a statement: “Al-Jazeera calls on all media and human right institutions to join forces in denouncing these ruthless bombing and to hold the government of Israel accountable for deliberately targeting journalists and media institutions.”

Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al-Jazeera Media Network, called the Israeli strike a “war crime.”

“The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza,” Souag said.

Al-Jazeera is a major broadcaster in the Mideast, funded by the Qatari government. It operates in both Israel and the Palestinian territories

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ISTANBUL — The communications director to Turkey’s president tweeted that Israel’s targeting of The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera offices in the Gaza Strip were a blow on the freedom of press.

The airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets.

Fahrettin Altun said after the attack: “I curse these lowly attacks by Israel hitting press centers to cover up its massacres.” He also claimed that “Israel is continuing its massacres and war crimes.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that Turkey stands with the Palestinians, who are still facing “ethnic, religious and cultural cleansing.”

AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building after the Israeli military telephoned a warning that the strike was imminent within an hour. Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.

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WASHINGTON — The White House says Israel has a “paramount responsibility” to ensure the safety of journalists covering the spiraling conflict.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Saturday that the U.S. has “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.”

President Joe Biden has urged a de-escalation, but has publicly backed Israel’s right to self-defense from Hamas rockets fired from Gaza.

The White House statement followed an Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. AP’s president and CEO Gary Pruitt said the agency was “shocked and horrified” at the strike.

AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building after the military telephoned a warning that the strike was imminent within an hour. Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.

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MADRID — Thousands have marched in Spain’s capital to protest the attacks by Israel’s military on the Gaza Strip.

Many waved Palestinian flags as they marched toward Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square on Saturday.

Protesters chanted “This is not war, this is genocide” in Spanish. Some held up homemade signs that read ““USA Terrorist State” and “Muslim Lives Matter.”

The rallies in Madrid and elsewhere in the world are taking place against the backdrop of a most serious escalation in the Mideast.

On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children.

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BAGHDAD — Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in cities across Iraq to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.

The demonstrators on Saturday waved Palestinian flags and banners across five provinces in rallies called for by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr called on followers to take to the streets and support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is under attack by the Israeli military.

Protesters gathered in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and the southern provinces of Babylon, Dhi Qar, Diwanieh and Basra in a show of support. In Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, demonstrators carried a Palestinian flag several feet long. Many also held up photos of al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr is a firebrand cleric who wields significant power in the country. In the May 2018 elections his party won the most number of seats.

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BEIRUT — Hundreds of people have participated in the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter who was shot dead along the Lebanon-Israel border during a rally denouncing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

The funeral of Mohammed Tahhan was held in his hometown of Adloun in southern Lebanon on Saturday afternoon. The 21-year-old man died of wounds sustained on Friday, shortly after he was struck during the protest at the border.

On Saturday, scores of Palestinian and Lebanese youth gathered in the border area again to rally against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza. Lebanese troops detained several people who tried to reach the border wall.

Earlier in the day, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border.

A small group had breached the fence on Friday and crossed the border into Israel, triggering the shooting. The Israeli military said troops fired warning shots toward the group after they sabotaged the fence and crossed over briefly.

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BERLIN — The United Nations’ human rights chief is urging all in what has developed into a battle between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers to lower tensions, and faulted actions by both sides.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued in Geneva on Saturday that “rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them.”

Bachelet’s statement was issued on Saturday, shortly before an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets.

In the statement, Bachelet “warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel, including densely populated areas, in clear violation of international humanitarian law, amounts to war crimes.”

There also are concerns that some attacks by the Israeli military in Gaza “have targeted civilian objects that, under international humanitarian law, do not meet the requirements to be considered as military objectives.”

It added that “the failure to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.”

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BERLIN — Iran’s foreign minister has called off a planned visit to his Austrian counterpart in Vienna. The decision came after Austria’s chancellery and foreign ministry flew the Israeli flag as a signal of solidarity in Israel’s conflict with the militant Hamas group.

Austrian daily Die Presse reported Saturday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to meet Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg on Saturday morning. But he called off the trip over the Austrian leaders’ decision to fly the Israeli flag on Friday.

The Austria Press Agency said Schallenberg’s spokeswoman, Claudia Tuertscher, confirmed the report. She said: “We regret this.”

Vienna has been hosting negotiations in recent weeks aimed at bringing the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at allaying concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China are still parties to that agreement.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, tweeted on Friday that Austria “so far been a great host for negotiations” but it was “shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, inc many children in just few days, over govt offices in Vienna.”

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has called for foreign ministers of the world’s largest body of Muslim nations to hold a meeting Sunday. The gathering is to discuss Israeli acts of violence against Palestinians and the Israeli police’s use of force against protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The kingdom will host the virtual summit, gathering ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation “to discuss the Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territory,” particularly acts of violence in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the body said Saturday.

The Saudi-headquartered OIC includes countries Iran, Turkey, Indonesia and a range of Muslim majority nations.

The sanctity of Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is a sensitive and emotive issue for Muslims around the world. The OIC was formed 51 years ago in response to a Jewish extremist arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem.

The hilltop on which the mosque stands is also sacred to Jews, who revere it as the Temple Mount because it was the site of the biblical temples. Some Jews and evangelical Christians support building a new Jewish temple on the site, an idea that Muslims find alarming because they fear it would lead to the mosque being partitioned or demolished.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians have begun gathering across the occupied West Bank to mark the anniversary of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

Nakba Day, Arabic for “catastrophe,” comes amid widespread Jewish-Arab violence in Israel and heavy fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza. The main event Saturday was held in West Bank city of Ramallah, where the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

On Friday, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank held some of the largest protests in years and clashed with Israeli forces, who shot and killed 11 people, including a Palestinian who tried to stab a soldier at a military position.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war. Today, they and their descendants number around 5.7 million and mostly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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