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Haitians emerge from homes during brief respite from gang violence. Hours later, gunfire erupts

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitians rushed to buy food and other basic supplies Thursday as they emerged from their homes during a rare respite from gang violence, but gunfire erupted in downtown Port-au-Prince hours later.

Female street vendors balancing heavy loads on their heads fled the area as bullets whizzed near buildings including the general hospital, the National Palace and the main penitentiary in yet another attack on Haiti’s capital. One policeman quickly bandaged the leg of a wounded man as the attack continued.

The gunfire began in the afternoon, hours after Associated Press journalists observed another round of evacuations of foreigners who had been stuck in Port-au-Prince since the attacks began Feb. 29.

Gangs have targeted police stations, the main international airport that remains closed and Haiti’s two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Dozens of people have been killed and some 17,000 have been left homeless as gangs continue to raid neighborhoods.

The U.N. Security Council said in a statement Thursday that it “strongly condemned the violence and the attacks carried out by the armed gangs and stressed the need for the international community to redouble its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the population and to support the Haitian National Police."

It also called for the swift deployment of a U.N.-backed police force from Kenya, which has been delayed.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday that it has evacuated more than 160 U.S. citizens out of Haiti since Sunday, the majority out of the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien. The first evacuations of U.S. citizens out of Port-au-Prince began on Wednesday.

“We reiterate our message to U.S. citizens: Do not travel to Haiti,” the agency said. “We have been stressing that the U.S. government cannot guarantee U.S. citizens will be evacuated given the situation on the ground.”

As the evacuations continue, Caribbean leaders are pushing to formally establish a transitional presidential council that would be responsible for choosing an interim prime minister and a council of ministers.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who remains locked out of Haiti, has said he would resign once the council is created.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america