Six Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and dozens more injured since early Friday morning, as thousands of Gazans took to the borders with Israel as part of “The Great March of Return” taking place across the besieged coastal enclave to mark the 41st Land Day.
In 1976, Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel as they were protesting the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of dunums of Palestinian land. Since then, Palestinians have commemorated March 30 as Land Day with mass protests across the ocupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Gaza, and inside Israel.
A Palestinian farmer was killed around dawn and another was injured as Israeli forces targeted the southern Gazan district of Khan Younis with mortar shells.
Spokesperson of the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, identified the slain farmer as Omar Sammour, 31, adding that another Palestinian, whose identity remained unknown, was injured during the shelling.
Israeli media reported that Sammour and the other man with him were targeted for approaching the border fence with Israel in a “suspicious manner,” though local sources reported that Sammour was simply gathering crops from his land to sell later in the day.
On Friday afternoon, medical sources confirmed to Ma’an that two more Palestinians were killed during the protest along the border.
One of the slain Palestinians was identified as Amin Mahmoud Muhammar from Rafah in southern Gaza. His age remained unknown.
The other slain Palestinian was identified as Muhammad Kamal al-Najjar, 25, from eastern Jabaliya in northern Gaza.
Around 2:20 p.m. medical sources told Ma’an that a fourth Palestinian had been killed. He was identified as Muhammad Abu Omar, 19.
Fifteen minutes later, the Gaza Ministry of Health confirmed that a fifth Palestinian had been killed. He was identified as 16-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim Odeh from the northern Gaza Strip.
Around 3:15p.m. the ministry reported that Jihad Freineh, 33, from Gaza City was killed.
Minutes later, the ministry reported that the seventh Palestinian had been killed by Israeli forces. He was identified as Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi, from Gaza City.
Leading up to the march, the Israeli army released a statement saying it had declared the border area along Gaza a “closed military zone,” meaning that any Palestinian who got close to the border fence could risk getting shot.
The Israeli army released statements on Twitter describing the protests as “violent riots.”
Despite the Israeli army’s claims, Palestinian activists and leaders in the Gaza Strip have maintained that the “March of Return” was organized as a massive non-violent, weeks-long protest advocating for the return of Palestinian refugees to their original homelands in historic Palestine, now present day Israel.
Leading up to Friday, the first official day of the march — which will continue until the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, in May — Palestinians set up tents along the border with Gaza, where protesters plan to stay until the Nakba anniversary.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas politburo, gave a speech at the March of Return, saying it “demonstrates that there are no alternatives to Palestine and the right of return (for the Palestinian people),” praising the people who left their homes to attend the march.
When speaking about the goal of the march, Haniyeh said it constitutes “the beginning of a return (of the Palestinian people) to the entirety of the land of Palestine.”
“We will not give up and we will not bargain with the Zionist entity over even a small piece of the land of Palestine,” Haniyeh continued, stressing that the Palestinians will reject any deal proposed by the Trump administration.
“Our people went out today to make it clear that we will not give up Jerusalem and that there is no alternative to Palestine and the right of return. We will not accept the right of return staying only a slogan.”