The Palestinians are reporting that seven protesters were killed by IDF fire during Friday’s mass demonstration near the Gaza border. In the early morning hours, an IDF tank fired at two Palestinians engaging in “suspicious behavior” near the fence in the southern Gaza Strip. Tensions are extremely high as tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters have gathered on the Palestinian side of the fence for a demonstration organized by Hamas.

IDF soldiers

IDF soldiers Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Palestinian sources have said seven protesters were killed by IDF fire since the beginning of the Hamas-led “March of Return” on Friday morning near the Gaza Strip border fence.

One of the reported fatalities was identified as Omar Samur, 28, a farmer from Gaza who was shot by an IDF tank after reportedly trying to put an explosive device on the fence. Palestinian eyewitnesses said he was shot while working his land.

The IDF confirmed the shooting, stating, “Two suspects approached the fence in the southern Gaza Strip during the night and engaged in suspicious behavior on the ground next to it. In response, an IDF force fired at them with a tank.”

More than 20,000 Palestinians have gathered near the fence in several locations since the early morning hours. Despite promises by Hamas to prevent protesters from getting near the fence, some were filmed throwing stones at IDF soldiers and waving a Palestinian flag just meters away from it.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted a message in Arabic to the residents of Gaza earlier, warning them not to try and approach the fence. “The leadership of Hamas is playing with your lives,” he wrote. “Anyone who gets close to the fence today is putting themselves in danger. I advise you to carry on with your lives and not take part in this provocation.”

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians along the Gaza border

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians along the Gaza border Photo credit: Wissam Nassar, Flash 90

On Thursday, JOL reported that the IDF had instructed its troops to shoot whoever tries to cross the Gaza fence. The IDF Spokesperson announced a complete closure of the West Bank and the Gaza border crossings during Passover, with the exception of humanitarian and health-related cases.

Gaza border protest

Gaza border protest Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90