A 20-year-old Palestinian died Wednesday afternoon after being critically wounded by IDF gunfire during a morning protest against a buffer zone being built between the eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, Gaza medical officials said.

They said the 20-year-old was shot as he and scores of other protesters planted Palestinian flags in the ground near the border fence. Some threw stones, drawing the gunfire from an Israeli patrol on the far side of the fence.

The man was shot in the abdomen, Mo'aweya Hassanein, the head of Gaza's emergency services, told reporters.

The IDF spokesperson said in a statement that IDF troops worked to scatter the protesters and fired shots in order to distance them. According to the statement, the IDF is currently investigating the shooting incident.

The death, the first suffered at the weekly demonstrations that organizers hope will draw attention to Israel's policy of barring Palestinians from coming within 300 meters (yards) of the border.

"These are non-violent demonstrations against the Israeli imposition of the buffer zone," a foreign pro-Palestinian activist who gave her name as Eva told Reuters Television.

"The Israelis say they can shoot anyone in this area. But it annexes Palestinian farmland. It annexes land where Palestinians live and work."

The IDF spokesperson said that the area near the border fence is a combat zone, and the presence of terror groups in the area endangers Israeli citizens and security forces in the area.

The Gaza border demonstrations began last month and are modeled on similar protests against land seizures for a barrier Israel is erecting in the West Bank, where Palestinians have also been fighting for a state.

The Israeli army has been establishing a 300-meter no-go zone along the border with the Gaza Strip. Israel says the aim is to prevent Palestinian militants from firing homemade rockets from the enclave at Israel.

Palestinians say the aim of the peaceful protests is to prevent the establishment of the zone which they say sees large areas of farmland confiscated and prevents farmers from reaching their fields.