Palestinian Girl Dies of Gunshot Wound; Israel Reinforces Gaza Blockade

An 11-year-old Palestinian girl died of a gunshot wound Saturday in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops reinforced a blockade aimed at deterring shooting attacks against Jewish settlers.

Late Saturday, an Israeli soldier was lightly injured in the Gaza Strip when a Palestinian militant threw grenades and opened fire as he tried to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Morag, the army said. The Palestinian was shot and killed.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine later took responsibility for the attack in a call to The Associated Press, saying it was retaliation for Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

In a separate incident at the settlement of Kfar Darom, soldiers shot at an armed Palestinian who approached the community, the army said. Israeli radio said soldiers saw that they hit the Palestinian but did not know his condition.

The Palestinian girl died in Rafah Hospital while undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg, physicians said. Her family said she was hit while walking home from school and the bullet came from the direction of an Israeli army outpost.

Army Radio said soldiers were firing in the area in response to a grenade being thrown at the outpost, which guards Morag, just north of Rafah. The army did not comment on the shooting.

The army continued Saturday to maintain checkpoints along major roads connecting the north and the south of Gaza Strip, making them impassable to Palestinians. The army said the operation was undertaken because of an escalation in shooting attacks, the latest on Friday in which a rabbi was killed.

"The troops cut the strip into three parts in the Gush Katif junction and Netzarim junction in order to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons," an army spokesman said. "The army will allow humanitarian cases to pass."

The army also said it had arrested two Islamic Jihad activists who were implicated in terrorist attacks and set off explosions that destroyed their homes. Troops also arrested two Palestinians wanted by the army.

At the end of the operation the troops withdrew from the Deir el-Balah area. They had entered the town on Friday in a failed search for an activist of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement.

The German Foreign Ministry said a German member of a European Union observer team was shot at as he drove through the West Bank town of Jenin but was not injured. Palestinian sources said the German was targeted because the gunmen thought he was an Israeli.

A Palestinian police officer was shot in the leg by a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad north of the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Palestinian security sources said. The injured officer and other police had stopped a car carrying the militant and other Islamic Jihad members that was heading to the Israeli border, allegedly to shoot mortar shells.

In Ramallah, meanwhile, an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat expressed disappointment with senior diplomats meeting in the United States for failing to call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territory.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh also said representatives of the so-called Quartet -- the United States, the United Nations, Russia, the European Union -- who met in Washington on Friday -- buckled to Israeli pressure by not issuing a road map for peacemaking.

"Delaying the implementation of the road map came after clear Israeli demands to delay it," Abu Rdeneh said. "I believe this position will help Israel continue its escalations and aggression."