Gaza man killed by Israel tank fire as border tensions rise
The death came hours before Palestinians were to stage mass sit-ins along the border with Israel.
A Palestinian farmer has been killed by an Israeli tank shell in the Gaza Strip, hours before Palestinians were to stage mass sit-ins along the border with Israel, a health official said.
Ahead of the protests, called for by Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, Israel’s military said it doubled its standard troop level along the border, deploying snipers, special forces and paramilitary border police units, which specialise in riot control.
Hamas has said the activities would be peaceful and the chief Israeli military spokesman, Brig Gen Ronen Manelis, said Israel wants to avoid violence.
However, previous protests near the border fence have turned deadly, with Israeli soldiers firing live bullets at Palestinians burning tyres, throwing stones or hurling firebombs.
Brig Gen Manelis said the military will not allow the crowds to breach the fence or damage military infrastructure.
In Friday’s incident, along with the killed Gazan, another Palestinian man was wounded.
The Israeli military said troops directed tank fire towards two suspects who approached the fence along the southern Gaza Strip and acted suspiciously. It said it is aware of reports of a killed Palestinian.
The sit-ins are seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break a crippling, decade-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt that has made it increasingly difficult for the Islamic militant group to govern.
Other tactics over the years, including cross-border wars with Israel and attempts to reconcile with political rival Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based Palestinian president, have failed to end Gaza’s isolation.
In the planned protest, Palestinians are setting up tent camps along the border, the first of a series of actions planned in Gaza in the coming weeks.
The activities are to culminate on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation, with a march through the border fence.
Palestinians commemorate the date as the anniversary of their mass displacement and uprooting during the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.
The vast majority of Gaza residents are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven from communities in what is now Israel.
The Palestinian killed on Friday was identified as 27-year-old Amr Samour. The Palestinian Health Ministry said he was killed in the south-eastern corner of Gaza.
Yasser Samour, a relative and fellow farmer, said Amr Samour was harvesting parsley before dawn, in hopes of selling it fresh in the market later in the day.
“I was working on the next field,” Mr Samour said. “We heard shelling landing on the field where Amr works. We ran there and found him hit directly with a shell. We were more than a kilometre away from the border.”
Another farmer was wounded in the leg by shrapnel, Mr Samour said.