Palestinians in Gaza 'caged in a toxic slum,' United Nations rights chief says

Protesters are demanding that Israel allows the millions of Palestinians whose families left or were forcibly removed from Israel at its founding to return.

Scores of Gazans have been killed during the protests by Israeli soldiers, and from other means, in a response Israel's leaders describe as self-defense "to protect our sovereignty and our citizens". It was unclear if the protesters he was referring to were militants or civilian supporters of the Islamic group, which rules Gaza and opposes Israel's existence.

The IDF insists it only uses live fire according to strict regulations and has come under attack from explosives, gunfire and rocks from participants in the demonstrations.

The special United Nations session comes after six weeks of mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border with Palestinian refugees demanding the right to return to their homes inside what is now Israel.

Another Hamas official did not confirm the number, but said those participating were demonstrating peacefully.

The Palestinian demonstrators were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during protests to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba - the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes - and the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

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The Egyptian official "made unequivocally clear to him [Haniyeh] that if this continues, Israel will respond and take far harsher steps, and Egypt will stand by and will not help", Katz told Israel Radio in an interview.

It also called on Israel to respect the basic human rights of Palestinians as well as worldwide law. The Palestinians held a one-day general strike and called for three days of mourning for the victims.

The United States opened its new Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Monday in a controversial move to the holy city from Tel Aviv that has brought wide condemnation. During the telephone conversation, the two sides discussed the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the arrangements of the emergency Islamic summit.

"I am very anxious about the escalation of tensions in the Holy Land and the Middle East, and about the spiral of violence which moves us ever further away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation", he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.

Leaders from around the world have signed "Our Hope for Peace" - including NRB's president & CEO, Dr. Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have said they are considering doing the same.

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