Hours before the protests, an Israeli tank shell killed a Gaza farmer and wounded another, and later two Palestinians were shot dead, the Gaza health ministry said.
“Omar Samour, 27, was martyred and another citizen was wounded as a result of (Israeli) targeting of farmers east of Qarara village,” a Gaza health ministry spokesman said.
Residents of the southern Gaza Strip village said Samour had been gathering crops to sell later.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the incident. “Overnight two suspects approached the security fence and began operating suspiciously and the tank fired towards them,” the spokesman said.
Samour’s death came hours before tens of thousands of Palestinians began demonstrating across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel on Friday to mark Land Day and demand the right of return for refugees.
The Gaza Ministry of Health confirmed in the early afternoon that four Palestinians had been killed during clashes, identifying the slain Palestinians as Mohammad Kamel Najjar, 29, who was killed near Jabalia in northern Gaza, Mahmoud Abu Muammar, 38, near Rafah in the south, Mohammad Abu Ummar, and an unnamed 16-year-old.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported that at least 20 Palestinians had received medical treatment as of noon Friday after being injured by Israeli forces.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army announced in a statement that it had declared the border area of the Gaza Strip a closed military zone – meaning all Palestinians getting close to the border fence could risk getting shot.
“The march has achieved its goals, it has shaken the pillars of the entity (Israel), and laid the first brick for the road of return,” Ismail Haniyeh, one of Hamas’ top political leaders, told Middle East Eye.
Held annually, Land Day marks the killing by Israeli troops of six Palestinian citizens of Israel on 30 March 1976 during a protest against the regime’s land confiscations.
In the Gaza Strip, where 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, protest organizers have called for six weeks of demonstrations called the “Great Return March” along the border of the besieged Palestinian enclave and Israel, starting on Friday and culminating on 15 May for Nakba Day.