A mass march of thousands of Palestinian protesters took place near the Gaza-Israel border Friday. The protest has sparked concerns that the protesters could clash with the Israeli forces. To add to the tension, a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli shelling just hours before the massive protest.
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In addition to the farmer, a Palestinian was wounded by tank fire near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, according to a ministry spokesman. The official identified the deceased Palestinian farmer as Omar Samour, 27. Witnesses say Samour was tending to his fields near the border when shells hit.
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An Israeli army official said, "Two suspects approached the security fence along the southern Gaza Strip and began operating suspiciously. In response an (Israeli) tank fired towards them," he said, adding that the army was aware of reports of a death." The shelling was followed by thousands of protesters making camp near the border.
The size of the protest, which numbers in the thousands, prompted the Israeli army to send reinforcements. The extra troops dispatched included over 100 special forces snipers just in case of an attempt to break through the security fence lining the border.
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Among the protesters are woman and children who are expected to remain in place for over six weeks leading up to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem May 14. Palestinians were infuriated by President Trump's recognition of the city as Israel's capital.
Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot has been outspoken about his fears the Gaza protest could pose a serious threat of renewed conflict. The United Nations asserts that over half of Gaza's 2 million residents are refugees or their descendants and the protest is an attempt to return to the land of Israel.
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