Palestinian medical sources listed Shayma Hasan Abu Shammala in critical condition after she was hit by several bullets fired by an Israeli soldier manning a military tower near the Egyptian-Gaza borders on Sunday.

Muawiya Hasanayn, head of the emergency department at the Palestinian health ministry, said the child was transferred to the European Hospital in Gaza due to the gravity of her condition.

Witnesses said the child was playing in the backyard of her home when the soldier opened fire on her.

Boy killed

Also on Sunday, a Palestinian boy died of wounds he sustained when an Israeli explosive device exploded near his home in Rafah at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. 

More than 570 Palestinian minors
have been killed in the past year

The boy, identified as 16-year-old Mahmud Said Qishta, was said to be playing outside his home in Rafah earlier this week when he inadvertently stepped on an explosive device left behind by the Israeli army.

Qishta was seriously wounded and transferred to the Nasir hospital in Khan Yunus, where he succumbed to his wounds on Sunday morning.

Palestinians and human-rights groups often complain that Israeli forces operating in and around Palestinian population centres deliberately plant explosive devices in places where Palestinian children usually play.

Danger zone

Sunday's incidents took place against a backdrop of sharply critical coverage in the Israeli media of the conduct of Israeli occupation troops.

Israeli army is under pressure to
disclose its rules of engagement

Many Israeli soldiers have begun to admit publicly that they are often given explicit orders to shoot Palestinian civilians, including children, when seen entering or approaching a certain "danger zone".

Last week, the Israeli human-rights organisation, B'Tselem accused the Israeli occupation army of killing Palestinian civilians and then covering up the killings or concocting mitigating circumstances to justify criminal behaviour towards innocent non-combatants.

B'Tselem challenged Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon to tell the truth regarding the so-called zones of destruction within the confines of which soldiers are allowed to shoot and kill any Palestinian, including toddlers and children.

'Despicable'

The charges were made in an advertisement after an Israeli TV station broadcast a conversation between an Israeli officer and other troops in which the officer said, "Anything that is mobile, any thing that moves in the zone, even if it is a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

The rising Palestinian civilian toll
is finally getting some attention

Incidentally, the Palestinian population is not informed of the existence of such "death zones".

It is believed that as many as 1400 Palestinian civilians, including some 570 children and minors, have been killed by Israeli soldiers during the past year.

This week Israeli columnist Amos Harel, writing in the daily Haaretz, described the army's practice of shooting Palestinian children and then covering up the killing as "despicable and criminal".

Another commentator, Doron Rosenblum, writing in the same paper, said the Israeli military establishment was more interested in confronting the negative publicity stemming from the killings of Palestinian civilians than in taking responsibility for the crimes themselves.