Protests on Gaza border turn bloody.
A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza quickly turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. Monday quickly became the bloodiest single day since a campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago, to protest Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the Gaza protests, which spread on Monday to the West Bank, in opposition to the embassy move.
By 4:30 p.m., 41 Palestinians, including several teenagers, were dead and at least 1,700 were injured in Gaza, the Health Ministry said, making Monday the bloodiest single day since a campaign of demonstrations along the border fence began seven weeks ago. Israeli soldiers and snipers were using barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory.
The Israeli military said that some in the crowds were planting or hurling explosives, and that many were flying flaming kites into Israel. Outside the Nahal Oz kibbutz, just across from protests east of Gaza City, emergency workers raced to try to extinguish a rapidly spreading wildfire caused by one incendiary kite, as four others could be seen sailing overhead.
By midafternoon, the protest nearest to Gaza City had turned into a pitched battle — a chaotic panorama of smoke, sirens and tear gas that stretched along the fence.
Thousands of protesters massed close to the barrier, often obscured by billowing clouds of black smoke. Israeli soldiers responded with barrages of tear gas and some gunfire.
Kites sailed toward the fence, some fashioned from Palestinian flags, others with flaming tails and carrying crude explosives.
Emergency workers with stretchers carried off a stream of injured protesters, many with leg wounds but some having been shot in the abdomen. A number were teenagers.
A voice on a loudspeaker urged the crowd forward: “Get closer! Get closer!”.
The action began midmorning, as crowds spread out across several hundred feet. The charge was often led by women dressed in black, waving Palestinian flags, who urged others to follow.
“We don’t want just one or two people to get closer,” said an elderly woman clutching a shoulder bag and a flag. “We want a big group.”
The atmosphere grew more charged after midday prayers, when more than 1,000 men gathered under a large blue awning. Officials from Hamas and other militant factions addressed the worshipers, urging them into the fray and claiming — falsely, to all appearances — that the fence had already been breached and that Palestinians were flooding into Israel.
Several speakers reserved their harshest words for the United States and its decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. “America is the greatest Satan,” said a cleric, holding his index finger in the air as hundreds of people did the same. “Now we are heading to Jerusalem with millions of martyrs. We may die but Palestine will live.” The crowd repeated the chant.
As the cleric spoke, more smoke rose in the sky behind him, and worshipers peeled away and began to walk toward the fence.
Palestinians’ anger erupted as American and Israeli officials prepared to celebrate President Trump’s move of the embassy to Jerusalem, which previous American administrations have been unwilling to do.
Many Israelis see the relocation of the embassy as simply acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But Palestinians, who hope to see the eastern part of Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state, see the move as an abdication of any vestige of American impartiality in determining the region’s future.
“Today is a day of sadness,” said Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian minister of education. “It’s a manifestation of the power of America and President Trump in upsetting the Palestinian people and the people who have been awaiting the independence of Palestine for 70 years.”
The embassy opening began at 4 p.m., with the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, among the dignitaries attending, as well as a small contingent of Republican lawmakers.
Mr. Kushner, whom Mr. Trump has tapped to negotiate Middle East peace, will say that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is still feasible, and that both sides have much to gain, according to advance remarks obtained by Reuters.
“We believe, it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give — so that all people can live in peace,” the remarks said.
The shift to Jerusalem reflects the close alliance that has developed between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
In the West Bank, protesters moved toward the Qalandiya checkpoint into Jerusalem, a longstanding hot spot for clashes with Israeli security forces. Credit Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
While Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, has led the protests there — and managed to revive international interest in the Palestinian cause in the process — the rival Palestinian Authority, which rules on the West Bank, made a more subdued show of support.
In Ramallah, a small crowd gathered before noon and marched south toward the Qalandiya checkpoint into Jerusalem, a longstanding hot spot for clashes with Israeli security forces.
At the front of the march were leaders of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah movement, including Jibril Rajoub, general secretary of Fatah, and Mr. Saidam, the education minister.
“Palestine is on the map,” Mr. Rajoub said. “This is a right. This is a must. The emergence of the Palestinian independent state with Jerusalem as its capital is the only way to achieve security, regional stability and contribute to global peace.”
Palestinians marched at midday in West Bank cities from Hebron to Nablus.
Outside the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem, youths released bunches of black balloons that carried aloft black Palestinian flags, showing their disdain for the American move. Even before marchers arrived there from Ramallah, clashes pitted demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails against Israeli security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Clashes were also reported in Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron and Nablus. But one usual hot spot was relatively quiet: the checkpoint near Beit El. A possible reason: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s president, returned on Monday from a trip overseas, and security officials were ensuring that his path home to Ramallah would be clear.
The mass protests in Gaza, promoted by Hamas, were expected to peak on Tuesday with an effort by thousands of people to cross the fence, despite warnings from Israel, possibly setting the stage for more bloodshed.
The demonstrations were originally meant to protest the economic blockade by Israel of Gaza, the impoverished region governed by Hamas. Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, have joined in the economic squeeze that has left Gazans increasingly desperate.
The timing is no accident — May 15 is observed by Palestinians as the anniversary of what they call the nakba, or catastrophe. It marks the expulsion or flight from the newly formed Jewish state of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948, who have been unable to return or reclaim property they left behind.
Some of the demonstrators have thrown gasoline bombs or rolled burning tires toward Israeli soldiers, and Israeli security forces have said that some of the Palestinians who were killed were armed with semiautomatic rifles.
The demonstrations at the Gaza fence have taken place primarily on Fridays since March 30, and have already left dozens of people dead and thousands injured.
On the border, violence foretold
Declan Walsh, the Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times, got a taste of what was to come on Sunday when he went to the site of the protests in Gaza for what he originally thought would be an uneventful evening.
On the Gaza side of the fence, local residents milled about. On the other side, Israeli snipers watched.
Two bullets suddenly slammed into the ground in front of the Palestinians, who moved back but then regrouped and approached the fence. Another shot rang out, this time hitting a woman, who had to be rushed to the hospital.
Lolade Siyonbola, a black graduate student at Yale University, had been writing a paper in her dorm’s common room when she dozed off. She awoke to a white schoolmate threatening to call the police if she didn’t leave.
Siyonbola, a 34-year-old African studies student, broadcast part of what happened next in two Facebook Live videos around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
The first video shows her confronting the white student who ordered her to get out.
“I have every right to call the police,” the student, identified by Siyonbola as Philosophy P.hD candidate Sarah Braasch, is heard saying in the video.
“You cannot sleep in that room.”
Minutes later, two police officers arrive to begin what would turn into a 17-minute interrogation of Siyonbola, which she captured in her second video.
“I was sleeping in the common room and [Braasch] comes in and turns the lights on and was like, ‘Why are you sleeping here? You’re not supposed to be sleeping here. I’m going to call the police’,” Siyonbola told the officers.
Siyonbola told police the woman had called the cops on a friend a few months earlier, “because he was in the stairwell and he was black.”
“I really don’t know if there’s a justification for you even actually being in the building,” Siyonbola told officers before reluctantly showing them her student ID.
“I deserve to be here,” she can be heard saying as she waited for police to verify her ID.
“I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
After two more officers arrived and Siyonbola’s ID was verified ― her name was apparently misspelled in the student database ― police permitted her to leave.
Braasch did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Siyonbola’s recordings of the incident sparked outrage on social media, with thousands sharing and commenting on the videos.
The controversy adds to recent national news stories of white people calling the police to report innocuous encounters with black people.
“This is so infuriating!” one person commented. “I’m so sorry you had to deal with this but you handled it better than I would’ve. She should have been arrested for making a call like that.”
Siyonbola, who did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, wrote on Facebook Tuesday that she was “grateful for all the love, kind words and prayers.”
“Black Yale community is beyond incredible and is taking good care of me, Siyonbola wrote.
“I know this incident is a drop in the bucket of trauma Black folk have endured since Day 1 America, and you all have stories.”
Yale officials addressed the incident in emails to students this week.
“I am deeply troubled by an incident that took place Monday night in the Hall of Graduate Studies,” Kim Goff-Crews, Yale’s vice president for student life, wrote.
“One graduate student called the police to report another student in the common area, who had every right to be there.”
She continued: “All of us in senior leadership recogniSe that incidents such as this one are being framed within a difficult national context. I want to underscore our commitment to carry out our mission as a university in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, where all are respected.”
Other recent encounters involving police summoned by white people to respond to complaints about people of color include a white woman who this month reported a group of black women who had rented an Airbnb near San Bernardino, California.
Last month, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia while they waited for a friend to arrive.
· Culled from www.huffingtonpost.com
By Peter Baker, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Choe Sang-Hun
WASHINGTON — The release of three American prisoners cleared away a last obstacle on Wednesday to a landmark nuclear summit meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
North Korea freed the prisoners, all Americans of Korean descent, even as the two countries finalized details for a meeting between their leaders. The move was North Korea’s most tangible gesture aimed at improving relations with the United States since Mr. Trump took office.
The resolution of the prisoner standoff hardly guaranteed success at the meeting, which will grapple with the far more complicated issues of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, divisions on the peninsula and security in Asia. But American officials said it sent another signal that North Korea may be serious about ending its long confrontation with the United States and its allies after nearly seven decades of mutual antagonism.
Mr. Trump exulted over the release and publicly entertained talk that he could even win a Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomacy. He was so eager to associate himself with the freed prisoners that he decided to personally travel to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington in the middle of the night to welcome them back to the United States, something other presidents have not typically done in similar circumstances.
“Nobody thought this was going to happen, and if it did, it would be years or decades, frankly,” Mr. Trump said at the White House shortly after they were released. “Nobody thought this was going to happen. And I appreciate Kim Jong-un for doing this and allowing them to go.”
The three were handed over to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made a second visit to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, to lock down details of the upcoming meeting between the president and Mr. Kim. Mr. Trump said it would not be held in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, as he had earlier suggested, and speculation centered on Singapore, a neutral site that has better facilities and is close to North Korea.
The United States has persistently demanded the release of its three citizens — Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song — who have all been held on charges of committing espionage or unidentified “hostile acts” against North Korea. Two of them were arrested after Mr. Trump took office last year.
“For Trump, the release validates his view that only he can effectively negotiate with North Korea,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a former senior Asia adviser to President Barack Obama. “For Kim, it helps him undermine the maximum pressure campaign, which has probably peaked, and drives up the price and lengthens the timeline for denuclearization.”
The three freed prisoners issued a statement as they made their way to Washington. “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” they said. “We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”
In the first comments attributed to Kim Jong-un confirming the planned meeting, the North Korean news agency said he expressed thanks to Mr. Trump for showing “deep interest in settling the issue through dialogue” and said the session would be an “excellent first step toward promotion of the positive situation development in the Korean Peninsula.”
During his one-day trip to Pyongyang, Mr. Pompeo and senior North Korean officials exchanged optimistic words about the future of the relationship.
At a lunch of poached fish and duck and red wine, on the 39th floor of the Koryo Hotel, Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party and Mr. Pompeo’s main interlocutor, said that after years of expending treasure on developing nuclear weapons, North Korea had decided to pivot to focus on improving the lives of its people.
“It is our policy to concentrate all efforts into economic progress in our country,” Kim Yong-chol said, echoing a policy shift that Kim Jong-un adopted at a party meeting last month. “I hope the United States also will be happy with our success,” he added. “I have high expectations the U.S. will play a very big role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
But Kim Yong-chol also said the decision to talk with the United States was “not a result of sanctions that have been imposed from outside,” despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to take credit.
Mr. Pompeo returned the friendly tone in his own toast. “For decades, we have been adversaries,” he said. “Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve.”
American detainees in North Korea have been an especially delicate issue. Otto F. Warmbier, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, died last June shortly after being released in a coma after spending 17 months in captivity in North Korea for trying to take a propaganda poster while on a trip there. His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, recently filed a lawsuit accusing North Korea of kidnapping and fatally torturing their son.
Mr. Trump called Mr. Warmbier’s parents last Friday, knowing it would be difficult for them to watch the safe return of other Americans from Pyongyang, White House officials said. On Wednesday, after the release, Vice President Mike Pence called the parents, and Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, opened a cabinet meeting with a prayer for Mr. Warmbier.
The first indication that North Korea was willing to talk about releasing the three prisoners came in March when it raised the possibility of meeting with Mr. Pompeo about the presidential meeting and indicated that the detainees could be a point of discussion during his visit, according to White House officials, who insisted on anonymity to provide an account of internal discussions.
Mr. Trump cautioned against offering concessions in exchange for the prisoners, insisting that if Mr. Kim was sincere about meeting with him, he would recognize that he needed to take the initiative and free them.
Mr. Pompeo returned from that initial trip over Easter weekend optimistic, the officials said, telling Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence that he was encouraged by preparations for the meeting and the prospects for getting the prisoners back.
On May 2, according to the officials, Mr. Pence met in the White House Situation Room with Mr. Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, to discuss plans for the summit meeting after the North Koreans had requested a second visit by Mr. Pompeo.
The invitation signaled progress, but Mr. Trump’s advisers decided to recommend that Mr. Trump condition a second visit by Mr. Pompeo on firm commitments from Pyongyang on the location and date for the summit meeting plus the release of the three Americans. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, joined them in bringing the idea to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump agreed. “We’re going to get the problem solved,” he said, according to the White House officials.
“Bring our boys home,” Mr. Pence told Mr. Pompeo.
White House officials knew that once Mr. Pompeo left his plane in Pyongyang, he would lose the ability to communicate securely during the 13 hours he would spend on the ground. They were cautious about saying anything about the clandestine mission until the detainees were on an American government plane.
Mr. Pence kept the secret on Tuesday when he briefed senators on Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. Asked about the prisoners, the vice president said only that the administration was working diligently to free them. Mr. Trump was less discreet, telling reporters that “we’ll all soon be finding out” whether the detainees would come home.
Mr. Pence spoke with Mr. Pompeo when his plane landed Wednesday in Japan and received an update on the condition of the freed prisoners, who were described as healthy and able to walk on their own.
All three ran afoul of a government deeply suspicious of foreigners. Kim Dong-chul, a businessman and naturalized American citizen from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, was arrested in October 2015, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor.
Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, was arrested in April 2017 while trying to board a plane to leave the country. He had spent a month teaching accounting at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a Christian-funded college.
Kim Hak-song, who volunteered at the college’s agricultural research farm, was arrested in May 2017. According to CNN, he was born in China near the North Korean border and emigrated to the United States in the 1990s, later returning to China and eventually moving to Pyongyang.
“This show of good will is a positive signal for the U.S.-North Korean summit because it reflects a willingness to negotiate and compromise,” said Lee Byong-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul, South Korea. “It also delivers a political score for the scandal-ridden President Trump at home, giving him something to brag about.”
But Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department diplomat who specializes in East Asia, pointed out that North Korea has a long history of seizing and imprisoning Americans, then using them as bargaining chips. “I would not give Pyongyang too much credit for undoing something it shouldn’t have been doing in the first place,” he said.
Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported from Washington, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea. Reporting was contributed by Rick Gladstone from New York, and Gardiner Harris, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan from Washington.