UNITED NATIONS – The United States on Tuesday vetoed an Arab-backed resolution that demanded an immediate end to military operations in the northern Gaza Strip (search) and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, saying the measure was "lopsided and unbalanced" and "absolves terrorists in the Middle East."
Israel launched the operation six days ago after a Palestinian rocket killed two children in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. The drive into Gaza has left 68 Palestinians dead.
The vote in the 15-member Security Council (search) was 11 in favor, one against, and three abstentions — Britain, Germany and Romania.
U.S. Ambassador John Danforth (search) cast the U.S. veto after British and German efforts to find compromise language failed. "Once again, the resolution is lopsided and unbalanced," Danforth told the council just before voting "no."
"It is dangerously disingenuous because of its many material omissions. Because of this lack of balance, because of these omissions, the resolution lacks credibility and deserves a 'no' vote," he said.
After the vote, Algeria's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab member of the council, thanked the resolution's supporters and noted that the measure got more than the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption.
Citing the high casualty toll and extensive destruction during the Israeli offensive, he said, "It is a sad day for the Palestinians and it is a sad day for justice."
Arab nations that introduced the resolution on Monday said they wanted a quick vote because of the urgency of the Israeli military operation — the deadliest Israeli incursion into Gaza in more than four years of fighting.
The resolution would have condemned "the broad military incursion and attacks by the Israeli occupying forces in the area of northern Gaza Strip, including in and around the Jabaliya refugee camp, resulting in extensive human casualties and destruction and exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation."
The defeated draft demanded "the immediate cessation of all military operations in the area of northern Gaza and the withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from that area."
It called for a cessation of violence, adherence to international humanitarian law, and for Israel and the Palestinians to immediately implement the long-stalled "road map" to peace backed by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
Danforth said the resolution put the blame on Israel "and absolves terrorists in the Middle East — people who shoot rockets into civilian areas, people who are responsible for killing children."
The United States in the past has vetoed similar resolutions, saying they lacked balance by not criticizing Palestinian attacks against Israelis while concentrating only on Israeli responses.
Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinians' representative, scoffed at Israel's assertion that the military operation was a justified response to the firing of two Palestinian rockets from Gaza that killed two children in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Wednesday.
Al-Kidwa told the council on Monday that Israeli reacted to an attack by a "rudimentary" rocket by sending 2,000 troops, 100 tanks, more than 100 other armored vehicles and bulldozers and helicopter gunships into the strip, focusing on the Jebaliya refugee camp.
"Now there are hundreds of Palestinians without shelter as a result of that total demolition or partial demolition of their homes, tens of thousands without water or electricity and suffering from severe shortages of food and medicine, precipitating a genuine humanitarian tragedy," Al-Kidwa said.
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said the Palestinian rocket attacks had become more sophisticated and created "an insufferable situation that no country ... would tolerate."
The council once again, he said, "had put the victim of terrorism in the dock and not the perpetrators."