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Haitians scramble to survive, seeking food, water and safety as gang violence chokes the capital

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Haitians scramble to survive, seeking food, water and safety as gang violence chokes the capital
News

News

Haitians scramble to survive, seeking food, water and safety as gang violence chokes the capital

2024-04-22 01:52 Last Updated At:02:01

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — As the sun sets, a burly man bellows into a megaphone while a curious crowd gathers around him. Next to him is a small cardboard box with several banknotes worth 10 Haitian gourdes — about 7 U.S. cents.

“Everyone give whatever they have!” the man shouts as he grabs the arms and hands of people entering a neighborhood in the capital of Port-au-Prince that has been targeted by violent gangs.

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FILE - Street vendors withdraw from the area where they were selling their bread, near the National Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — As the sun sets, a burly man bellows into a megaphone while a curious crowd gathers around him. Next to him is a small cardboard box with several banknotes worth 10 Haitian gourdes — about 7 U.S. cents.

FILE - Laundry hangs to dry om makeshift clotheslines as children play in the courtyard of a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Laundry hangs to dry om makeshift clotheslines as children play in the courtyard of a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People look at a body after an overnight shooting in the Petion Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People look at a body after an overnight shooting in the Petion Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Youth take cover after hearing gunshots at a public school that serves as a shelter for people displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Youth take cover after hearing gunshots at a public school that serves as a shelter for people displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People crowd around a fuel pump at a gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People crowd around a fuel pump at a gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor carries empty containers for fuel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor carries empty containers for fuel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Residents fill their containers with potable water, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Residents fill their containers with potable water, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

A man, who says he was shot in the hand by a gang member, is treated at a Doctors Without Borders emergency room in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man, who says he was shot in the hand by a gang member, is treated at a Doctors Without Borders emergency room in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

FILE - Motorcyclists navigate around a charred body lying in the road as pedestrians walk past, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Motorcyclists navigate around a charred body lying in the road as pedestrians walk past, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A server ladles soup into a container as children line up to receive food at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A server ladles soup into a container as children line up to receive food at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A child watches from an opening in a security gate as residents flee their homes due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A child watches from an opening in a security gate as residents flee their homes due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor balances on his head a bag filled with smaller bags of water in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor balances on his head a bag filled with smaller bags of water in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man lifts a chain being used as a barricade for neighbors to pass into the neighborhood as they work to prepare a metal gate to protect themselves from gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man lifts a chain being used as a barricade for neighbors to pass into the neighborhood as they work to prepare a metal gate to protect themselves from gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A resident uses a loudspeaker to ask neighbors for a donation to pay for a metal gate to be installed as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A resident uses a loudspeaker to ask neighbors for a donation to pay for a metal gate to be installed as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The community recently voted to buy a metal barricade and install it themselves to try to protect residents from the unrelenting violence that killed or injured more than 2,500 people in Haiti from January to March.

“Every day I wake up and find a dead body,” said Noune-Carme Manoune, an immigration officer.

Life in Port-au-Prince has become a game of survival, pushing Haitians to new limits as they scramble to stay safe and alive while gangs overwhelm the police and the government remains largely absent. Some are installing metal barricades. Others press hard on the gas while driving near gang-controlled areas. The few who can afford it stockpile water, food, money and medication, supplies of which have dwindled since the main international airport closed in early March. The country's biggest seaport is largely paralyzed by marauding gangs.

“People living in the capital are locked in, they have nowhere to go,” Philippe Branchat, International Organization for Migration chief in Haiti, said in a recent statement. “The capital is surrounded by armed groups and danger. It is a city under siege.”

Phones ping often with alerts reporting gunfire, kidnappings and fatal shootings, and some supermarkets have so many armed guards that they resemble small police stations.

Gang attacks used to occur only in certain areas, but now they can happen anywhere, any time. Staying home does not guarantee safety: One man playing with his daughter at home was shot in the back by a stray bullet. Others have been killed.

Schools and gas stations are shuttered, with fuel on the black market selling for $9 a gallon, roughly three times the official price. Banks have prohibited customers from withdrawing more than $100 a day, and checks that used to take three days to clear now take a month or more. Police officers have to wait weeks to be paid.

“Everyone is under stress,” said Isidore Gédéon, a 38-year-old musician. “After the prison break, people don’t trust anyone. The state doesn’t have control.”

Gangs that control an estimated 80% of Port-au-Prince launched coordinated attacks on Feb. 29, targeting critical state infrastructure. They set fire to police stations, shot up the airport and stormed into Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

At the time, Prime Minister Ariel Henry was visiting Kenya to push for the U.N.-backed deployment of a police force. Henry remains locked out of Haiti, and a transitional presidential council tasked with selecting the country’s next prime minister and Cabinet could be sworn in as early as this week. Henry has pledged to resign once a new leader is installed.

Few believe this will end the crisis. It’s not only the gangs unleashing violence; Haitians have embraced a vigilante movement known as “bwa kale,” that has killed several hundred suspected gang members or their associates.

“There are certain communities I can’t go to because everyone is scared of everyone,” Gédéon said. “You could be innocent, and you end up dead.”

More than 95,000 people have fled Port-au-Prince in one month alone as gangs raid communities, torching homes and killing people in territories controlled by their rivals.

Those who flee via bus to Haiti’s southern and northern regions risk being gang-raped or killed as they pass through gang-controlled areas where gunmen have opened fire.

Violence in the capital has left some 160,000 people homeless, according to the IOM.

“This is hell,” said Nelson Langlois, a producer and cameraman.

Langlois, his wife and three children spent two nights lying flat on the roof of their home as gangs raided the neighborhood.

“Time after time, we peered over to see when we could flee,” he recalled.

Forced to split up because of the lack of shelter, Langlois is living in a Vodou temple and his wife and children are elsewhere in Port-au-Prince.

Like most people in the city, Langlois usually stays indoors. The days of pickup soccer games on dusty roads and the nights of drinking Prestige beer in bars with hip-hop, reggae or African music playing are long gone.

“It’s an open-air prison,” Langlois said.

The violence has also forced businesses, government agencies and schools to close, leaving scores of Haitians unemployed.

Manoune, the government immigration officer, said she has been earning money selling treated water since she has no work because deportations are stalled.

Meanwhile, Gédéon said he no longer plays the drums for a living, noting that bars and other venues are shuttered. He sells small plastic bags of water on the street and has become a handyman, installing fans and fixing appliances.

Even students are joining the workforce as the crisis deepens poverty across Haiti.

Sully, a 10th grader whose school closed nearly two months ago, stood on a street corner in the community of Pétion-Ville selling gasoline that he buys on the black market.

“You have to be careful,” said Sully, who asked that his last name be withheld for safety. “During the morning it’s safer.”

He sells about five gallons a week, generating roughly $40 for his family, but he cannot afford to join his classmates who are learning remotely.

“Online class is for people more fortunate than me, who have more money,” Sully said.

The European Union last week announced the launch of a humanitarian air bridge from the Central American country of Panama to Haiti. Five flights have landed in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, site of Haiti’s sole functioning airport, bringing 62 tons of medicine, water, emergency shelter equipment and other essential supplies.

But there is no guarantee that critical items will reach those who most need them. Many Haitians remain trapped in their homes, unable to buy or look for food amid whizzing bullets.

Aid groups say nearly 2 million Haitians are on the verge of famine, more than 600,000 of them children.

Nonetheless, people are finding ways to survive.

Back in the neighborhood where residents are installing a metal barricade, sparks fly as one man cuts metal while others shovel and mix cement. They are well underway, and hope to finish the project soon.

Others remain skeptical, citing reports of gangs jumping into loaders and other heavy equipment to tear down police stations and, more recently, metal barricades.

FILE - Street vendors withdraw from the area where they were selling their bread, near the National Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Street vendors withdraw from the area where they were selling their bread, near the National Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Laundry hangs to dry om makeshift clotheslines as children play in the courtyard of a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Laundry hangs to dry om makeshift clotheslines as children play in the courtyard of a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People look at a body after an overnight shooting in the Petion Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People look at a body after an overnight shooting in the Petion Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Youth take cover after hearing gunshots at a public school that serves as a shelter for people displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Youth take cover after hearing gunshots at a public school that serves as a shelter for people displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People crowd around a fuel pump at a gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - People crowd around a fuel pump at a gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor carries empty containers for fuel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor carries empty containers for fuel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Residents fill their containers with potable water, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Residents fill their containers with potable water, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

A man, who says he was shot in the hand by a gang member, is treated at a Doctors Without Borders emergency room in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man, who says he was shot in the hand by a gang member, is treated at a Doctors Without Borders emergency room in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

FILE - Motorcyclists navigate around a charred body lying in the road as pedestrians walk past, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - Motorcyclists navigate around a charred body lying in the road as pedestrians walk past, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A server ladles soup into a container as children line up to receive food at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A server ladles soup into a container as children line up to receive food at a shelter for families displaced by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A child watches from an opening in a security gate as residents flee their homes due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A child watches from an opening in a security gate as residents flee their homes due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor balances on his head a bag filled with smaller bags of water in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

FILE - A vendor balances on his head a bag filled with smaller bags of water in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors pass in and out of a passageway as others erect a metal gate as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man lifts a chain being used as a barricade for neighbors to pass into the neighborhood as they work to prepare a metal gate to protect themselves from gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A man lifts a chain being used as a barricade for neighbors to pass into the neighborhood as they work to prepare a metal gate to protect themselves from gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A resident uses a loudspeaker to ask neighbors for a donation to pay for a metal gate to be installed as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A resident uses a loudspeaker to ask neighbors for a donation to pay for a metal gate to be installed as a barricade as protection against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Neighbors raise a metal gate as they work to install it as a barricade against gangs, in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Next Article

How did North Korean soldiers wander across the world's most heavily guarded border?

2024-06-21 12:26 Last Updated At:12:30

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Don’t believe the name: The Demilitarized Zone between the two rival Koreas might be the most heavily armed place on earth. Two million mines, barbed wire fences, tank traps and tens of thousands of troops from both countries patrol a divided swath of land 248 kilometers (154 miles) long and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide.

So how are North Korean soldiers continuing to wander over the line separating North from South, causing South Korea to fire warning shots for the third time this month?

The short answer appears to be shrubbery: Because of an overgrowth of foliage, the North Koreans may not have seen the signs marking the thin military demarcation line that divides the DMZ into northern and southern sides.

But it's also just the latest entry in the long, often violent history of the unique border set up after the 1950-53 Korean War. It ended with an armistice, instead of a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula divided, and technically still in a state of war.

Here’s a look at the events surrounding the incursion:

On Friday, South Korea’s military said it had fired warnings shots the previous day to repel several North Korean soldiers who briefly crossed the military demarcation line that divides the countries while engaging in unspecified construction work.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Koreans retreated shortly after South Korean soldiers broadcast a warning and fired the shots Thursday morning, but didn’t immediately release more details.

Similar incidents took place on June 9 and June 18, each involving some 20 to 30 North Korean soldiers briefly crossing the demarcation line and retreating shortly after the South Koreans broadcast audio warnings and fired warning shots.

South Korea’s military says the incursions were likely accidents, noting that the North Koreans did not return fire and withdrew immediately.

The demarcation line, in many parts of the DMZ, is simply a sign mounted on a stick or a slice of concrete.

People have stepped across it before, under very special circumstances, and usually at the border village of Panmunjom. Former U.S. President Donald Trump walked across with Kim Jong Un. Last year an American soldier facing possible military discipline dashed over the line to the North.

Outside of Panmunjom, much of the DMZ is wilderness, but it is heavily monitored on both sides. And while the demarcation line may be easily crossed, it is very difficult to do so without being spotted immediately.

The southern side of the land border is protected not only by thousands of soldiers, guns and mines, but also by a dense network of cameras, motion sensors and other high-tech surveillance equipment. Breaches are very rare and are usually detected quickly. Defections from the North are also unusual along the North-South land border, though they have happened with frequency along the porous China-North Korea border and occasionally in the Yellow Sea.

The North’s accidental intrusions this month may have been caused by a sudden jump in North Korean troops fortifying their side of the border.

Because overgrown trees and plants may have been obscuring the signs marking the demarcation line, Seoul says, the North Korean troops may have stepped over the line without knowing it.

Relations between the rival Koreas are worse now than in many years.

Recent weeks have seen a tit-for-tat standoff that has resulted in Cold War-style psychological warfare. Both sides have said they are no longer bound by a landmark military agreement in 2018 to reduce tensions.

The North Koreans along the border, Seoul says, have been installing what appear to be anti-tank barriers, reinforcing roads and planting land mines, even as mine explosions have killed or wounded an unspecified number of North Korean soldiers.

The construction started around April and may be an attempt to curb North Koreans trying to defect to the South, according to Seoul’s military.

Animosities may worsen as Kim continues to accelerate his nuclear weapons and missiles development and align with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of their separate, escalating confrontations with Washington.

On Thursday, South Korea’s government condemned an agreement by Kim and Putin at their summit this week in which the two nations vowed to aid each other if attacked. In turn, Seoul said it will consider sending arms to Ukraine to help it fight Russia’s invasion.

Possibly, especially if the North Korean construction continues along the demarcation line.

But both sides appear intent on containing their animosities to the psychological warfare they’re engaging in.

Still, there are worries that the hostilities are pushing them closer to a direct military clash. The Koreas have had no meaningful talks for years and could find it difficult to set up dialogue as tensions rise over the North’s development of nuclear-capable weapons.

Some analysts say the Koreas’ poorly marked western sea boundary — site of skirmishes and attacks in past years — is more likely to be a crisis point than the land border.

Kim, during a fiery speech in January, reiterated that his country does not recognize the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, which was drawn up by the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the end of the war. North Korea insists on a boundary that encroaches deeply into South Korea-controlled waters.

While the huge military presence on both sides of the DMZ means that years sometimes pass without incident, violence can quickly erupt. Two American Army officers were axed to death in 1976 by North Korean soldiers, for instance.

Klug, AP's news director for the Koreas, reported from Tokyo.

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

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