Gaza's Health Ministry says a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli forces near the perimeter fence with Israel, hours before Gaza anniversary rally, one year after the first of weekly Great March of Return protests.

Palestinians targeted by tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City on March 29, 2019.
Palestinians targeted by tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City on March 29, 2019. (Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

A Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border early Saturday, the territory's health ministry said, hours ahead of planned mass protests to mark the first anniversary of weekly protests in which more than 200 Palestinians have been killed.

The ministry said Mohammed Saad died after being hit in the head with shrapnel caused by Israeli forces fire east of Gaza City.

The fatal shooting came hours before Palestinians were to hold a large rally, capping a year of weekly marches against the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, imposed after the 2007 takeover of the territory by Hamas.

Earlier Gaza medical officials said, Israeli troops shot and wounded seven Palestinians on the Gaza border on Friday.

Despite a decision by Gaza protest organisers not to hold a big demonstration on Friday some Palestinians turned out, although in smaller numbers than usual. Humanitarian officials urged restraint for Saturday's anniversary to avoid any further bloodshed.

The Israeli military said its troops faced around 800 demonstrators along the fortified frontier on Friday and that they dispersed them. Israel is also massing its forces on the border with Gaza.

Violence despite ceasefire talks

There were also sporadic clashes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian youths threw petrol bombs in Hebron. Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at about 150 demonstrators.

Friday's violence came after ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas earlier in the day as Palestinians braced for renewed attacks on the eve of the first anniversary of the weekly protests.

The anniversary event comes days before the Israeli elections and follows a round of heavy cross-border fighting, with Israel striking at will against the blockaded territory.

Egyptian mediators shuttled between Gaza and Israel throughout Friday, according to the main Gaza factions, relaying messages and proposing solutions to tamp down the scale and intensity of the expected rally.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the group is "at a crossroads" in the latest round of talks with Egyptian officials.

Haniyeh said Hamas is demanding the delivery of aid and goods to the blockaded Gaza Strip, an end to water and electricity shortages, and job creation programs to mitigate the territory's 50 percent unemployment rate.

Hamas launched the weekly march movement a year ago, initially to call for a return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral lands in what is now Israel.

The focus of the demonstrations has been expanded to pressuring Israel into lifting its crippling blockade of the coastal enclave. The blockade, enforced also by Egypt, has created an economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza and stoked Hamas fears of internal dissent.

Egyptian and international mediators fear that if Hamas fails to restrain the anniversary protests, violence could escalate into a major conflagration between the bitter enemies. Since Hamas took over governance of Gaza by force in 2007, it has fought three devastating wars with Israel.

Hamas has been mobilising its resources and urging Palestinians to come out in force to five locations along the Israeli security fence on Saturday. Protest organisers installed tents near the border equipped with electricity and internet connection for demonstrators. The main Gaza City hospital has erected a triage tent in anticipation of a massive influx of casualties. Israel has bolstered its forces around the enclave in advance.

Earlier on Friday, a UN official urged both sides to avoid a violent escalation at the border demonstration.

Jamie McGoldrick, the world body's humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, in a statement outlined the "staggering" human costs a year of demonstrations has inflicted, especially on Gaza's children.

He said 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli forces and nearly 29,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including 7,000 by live fire.

A large number of the casualties have been unarmed Palestinians and medics with clearly marked clothing, which has "raised concerns" about Israel's use of excessive force.

The UN statement said the protests have deteriorated conditions in the Gaza Strip, overwhelming a health care system already stressed by 11 years of blockade.

The UNHRC says Israel's abuse of Palestinians in Gaza during the past year could constitute crimes against humanity.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies