Israelis, Palestinians clash in Gaza protest; at least 1 dead

March 30 (UPI) — A Palestinian man was killed and dozens were injured by Israeli forces Friday as a “March of Return” protest grows along the Gaza border.

Israeli troops have lined the fence with infantry battalions and more than 100 snipers, who are ready to fire at Palestinians who attempt to break through the security fence.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the demonstrations mark the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to all of Palestine.

“The Palestinian people have proved time after time that they can take the initiative and do great things. This march is the beginning of the return to all of Palestine,” Haniyeh said. “This march sends a message that the Palestinian people are united against the occupation and against the blockade and against the concessions and against the suspicious deals.”

Omar Wahid Samur, a 27-year-old Palestinian man, was killed by Israeli tank fire near the town of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip. Another man is in critical condition after being wounded by an Israeli tank shell.

Palestinians in Gaza have pitched tents near the border ahead of the planned six-week protest that began on Friday and are expected to last until mid-May, the anniversary when thousands of Palestinians fled their homes during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, six men were injured by live fire and 45 others were wounded by rubber bullets near the border. A second Palestinian was reported killed but the Hamas-run health ministry didn’t immediately confirm the death.

Israeli military officials said protesters were burning tires and throwing rocks at the soldiers on the other side of the security fence. Warnings not to approach the fence were sent to Palestinians via social media, news outlets and by leaflets dropped from airplanes.

Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said any Palestinians approaching the security fence are putting their lives at risk.

“Those who approach the fence today are putting themselves in danger,” Liberman said. “I would advise [Gazans] to go on with your lives and not engage in provocations.”