UNITED NATIONS — The United States vetoed a draft UN resolution Oct. 5 demanding an immediate end to the massive Israeli military thrust into the Gaza Strip that has claimed at least 83 lives. Eleven members of the 15-member Security Council voted for the resolution; Britain, Germany and Romania abstained.

The Arab nations that introduced the resolution had wanted a quick, affirmative vote on the resolution because of high casualties sustained by the Palestinian side, particularly civilians, over a period of six days — the deadliest Israeli incursion into Gaza in more than four years of fighting.

Nine Palestinians died Oct. 4 in northern Gaza, including four militants and a 14-year-old girl who residents said was shot as she baked bread with her mother in their garden. Israel has vowed to keep its troops in the area until Palestinian militants end rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns.

Palestinian UN observer Nasser al-Kidwa told Al Jazeera that his leadership condemned the “rudimentary” Qassam rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, especially the killing of Israeli children. But he said Israel had killed at least 83 Palestinians, including 20 children, and wounded more than 350 others, using 2,000 soldiers, 100 tanks, more than 100 other armored vehicles, and helicopter gunships. Destruction has been heaviest in Jabalya refugee camp and the northern Gaza towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia.

“Israel persists in committing war crimes and acts of state terrorism against the Palestinian people,” al-Kidwa said. “There is no justification for this Israeli hysteria, for these widespread killings and deliberate destruction.”

Al-Kidwa rejected 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 Sederot on Sept. 29.

“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.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called on the world and the Israeli peace movements to take urgent action to stop the Israeli military’s “crimes against humanity,” especially in North Gaza.

Prior to the vote, a Swiss foreign ministry spokesperson had expressed concern about the escalation of violence in Gaza and called Israel to respect international law, which prohibits the use of disproportionate force and reprisals against civilians.

Algerian UN Ambassador Abd Allah Baali said, “The Palestinian people are exposed to a virtual war of extermination. The unfettered use of brutal force is terrifying.”

Prior to the vote, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth accused the Security Council, as well as the 191-member General Assembly, of acting “as the adversary of Israel and the cheerleader of the Palestinians.” Despite a last-minute effort by the Russian Federation to amend the draft to Washington’s liking, Danforth ultimately vetoed the draft, calling it “one-sided.” Since 1984, the U.S., the closest ally of Israel, had vetoed 23 draft resolutions condemning Israel’s actions toward Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) said that while it strongly condemns the killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike, it regards as “sheer hypocrisy” the Ariel Sharon government’s attempt to exploit the deaths of civilians, including the two children in Sederot, “to justify the renewal of occupation of parts of Gaza Strip and the killing of tens of Palestinians, among them pupils in their school classes.”

The CPI called upon “all peace lovers, Jews and Arabs, to denounce the crimes of occupation and to demand the immediate pullout of the Israeli Army from all parts of the Gaza Strip.” It said, “Security and peace can be achieved only by putting an end to Israeli occupation, evacuating all Israeli settlements, establishing a Palestinian independent state alongside Israel, establishing two capitals in Jerusalem, and solving the Palestinian refugees’ question according to UN resolutions.”