Relatives of the dead Palestinian grieve at a hospital in southern Gaza. (Picture by Reuters)

Reports say a Palestinian farmer has been killed by Israeli tank fire in Gaza, hours before a major protest by Palestinians along the border was due to start.

The strike happened near the town of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza.

The Israeli military said a tank had fired at two suspects after suspicious activity near a security fence.

Palestinians have pitched tents on the border for a six-week protest dubbed the Great March of Return.

Palestinian sources say several Palestinians have now also been wounded by Israeli military fire near Jabaliya in northern Gaza and near Rafah in the south.

The Israeli military oversees a no-go zone along the Gaza border, citing security concerns. It has warned Palestinians not to approach security fences.

Hamas, the militant group which dominates the Gaza Strip, has accused Israel of trying to intimidate Palestinians by killing the farmer and by urging them not to participate in the protests.

Map showing the position of the five protest camps. Source: Haaretz

The Israeli foreign ministry has said the protest is a “deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation with Israel” and that “responsibility for any clashes lies solely with Hamas and other participating Palestinian organisations”.

Palestinian health officials named the dead man as 27-year-old Omar Samour and said a second man had been injured in the incident.

Witnesses say the two men were hit by tank fire while collecting parsley in a field.

Palestinians have erected five main camp areas along the Israel border for the protest, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah near the Egyptian border.

The Great March of Return protests are starting on Friday, as 30 March marks Land Day, which commemorates the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over land confiscation in 1976.

-BBC