…As North Korea cancels high-level talks with the South***
Families in Gaza were burying their dead Tuesday, a day after Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians by opening fire during protests as the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.
Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted during Israel’s creation in 1948. It was also due to be the culmination of seven weeks of demonstrations near the fence between Gaza and Israel.
But Khaled Batsh, the head of the grass-roots organizing committee behind the protests, told The Associated Press that the “day of the catastrophe” would instead be set aside for funerals and a general strike.
Throughout Gaza, mourners waved Palestinian flags and called for revenge. “With souls and blood we redeem you martyrs,” they shouted.
Among those buried was 8-month-old Layla al-Ghandour, who inhaled tear gas at a tented protest encampment. “Let her stay with me. It is too early for her to go,” her mother cried, pressing the baby’s body to her chest.
The violence Monday also left 2,771 Palestinians wounded, including more than 300 women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Tens of thousands have rallied in recent weeks near the fence, demanding that Israels allow the millions of Palestinians whose families left or were forcibly removed from Israel at its founding to return. Refugees and their descendants make up more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population.
A total of 109 people have been killed and around 12,300 others wounded since the protests began on March 30, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
On Monday, Israeli troops opened fire on protesters approaching the fence. The military accused the militant group Hamas — which has ruled Gaza since it won elections in 2006 — of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people.” Israel said its forces were defending the border. It said that 24 protesters with “a documented terror background” were among Monday’s dead.
In the meantime, North Korea is calling off this week’s high-level talks with South Korea because of the South’s military exercises with the United States, the South Korean government confirmed Wednesday.
North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, also cast doubt on whether the much-anticipated summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump could proceed as planned next month, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Trump has said he hopes that the summit will lead to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But KCNA later said that North Korea would never engage in economic trade with the United States in exchange for its giving up its nuclear program and that it would need to reconsider the summit if Washington refused to back down, according to Reuters.
“The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” Yonhap reported KCNA as saying.
Baek Tae-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, confirmed that North Korea had canceled talks between the two countries that had been scheduled for Wednesday because of its objection to the military exercises.
Baek said at a briefing for reporters that Seoul “is urging North Korea to come to the talks soon for the sake of peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
The regime believes that the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and U.S. air forces are a rehearsal for an invasion of the North and a provocative move amid signs of improving ties between the two countries, Yonhap said. A South Korean military official told NBC News that the drills would go on as planned.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration was aware of the Yonhap report. “The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies,” she said in a statement.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the United States would “continue to go ahead and plan the meeting” between Trump and Kim. She suggested that the United States had been caught off-guard by the Korean report.