Palestinian Girl Killed After Israelis Return Fire

A stray bullet killed an 11-year old Palestinian girl in her kitchen Saturday when Israeli troops fired on her neighborhood in the southern Gaza Strip (search), relatives and hospital officials said.

The girl, Iman Tulbeh, was shot in the head as soldiers fired toward the al-Amal neighborhood in the town of Khan Younis, the witnesses said.

The Israeli military said militants had fired a rocket from the area and that troops returned fire. The army said it was investigating the incident.

Family members present at the time said Tulbeh was helping her mother in the kitchen when a bullet entered through an open window, struck the girl in the face, and emerged from the back of her head. Tulbeh died shortly thereafter.

Also in southern Gaza, Palestinians fired an anti-tank rocket at the settlement of Neve Dekalim, the military said. The rocket hit the settlement fence, and no injuries were reported.

In Gaza City, the militant Islamic group Hamas (search) extended a fund-raising drive late into the night Friday after thousands of Palestinians were still lined up to donate as the campaign ended.

Hamas announced in mosques Friday that it needs money to fight Israel. The group is trying to strengthen itself ahead of an expected Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials on Saturday refused to say how much money they had collected, but there were reports of individual donations of up to $50,000. Thousands of people lined up to donate small sums of cash, jewelry and even hand grenades.

Hamas fund-raising abroad has been seriously hampered in recent months, with Israel and the United States trying to stop the transfer of funds. In February, Israeli troops raided several banks in the West Bank, seizing nearly $7 million of what Israel said was money funneled to militants, including Hamas, from abroad.

The group is also in the midst of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over who will control Gaza after an Israeli withdrawal, and the collection drive was seen as a show of strength by the increasingly popular opposition group.

Hamas is pledged to Israel's destruction and has killed more than 300 Israelis in suicide attacks in more than three-and-a-half years of fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (searchhas said he is determined to go ahead with a pullback from Gaza and withdraw from four small West Bank settlements, but only after winning the approval of his Likud Party.

The party vote is to take place by late April, two weeks after Sharon returns from Washington where he is to try to garner support for his plan from President Bush. Initially, the referendum was expected in mid-May.

Political sources said Sharon decided to speed up the timetable to leverage the momentum from his Washington trip and make it harder for the opposition within Likud to organize.

Sharon has said he will honor the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll showed a slim majority of Likud members supporting his proposal.

Opponents complained that the vote was being rushed. "I think that what made the prime minister's advisers pull this political trick is their own fear of our (opposition) campaign," Likud legislator Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio Friday.

Late Friday, Erdan petitioned the party court in an attempt to delay the vote, the Haaretz daily reported.

The report did not say when a decision would be made.

In the West Bank on Saturday, troops in about a dozen jeeps swept through a refugee camp in the city of Nablus, conducting house-to-house searches and arresting 11 Palestinians, witnesses said.

The army said it arrested two fugitives from the militant Hamas group in the raid.

Three other Palestinians were arrested in the Bethlehem area, the army said.