In contrast to its rare reproach to Israel in May, condemning Tel Aviv for civilian deaths in Rafah, Washington was the only UN Security Council member prepared to defend Israel’s large-scale incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, which has so far claimed over 77 Palestinian lives. The UK, Germany and Romania abstained while other council members voted in favour of the resolution.

Casting his veto, Washington’s ambassador to the UN John Danforth said that the resolution was ‘lopsided and unbalanced’, since it made no mention of Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks on Jewish settlements – which prompted the Israeli army to send tanks into Gaza in late September. Danforth also said the resolution ‘put the blame on Israel and absolves terrorists – people who shoot rockets into civilian areas, people who are responsible for killing children’.

Palestinian representative Nasser al-Kidwa responded by accusing the Security Council of failing to take a stand against the bloodshed and accusing Washington of hypocrisy. ‘You can’t advocate unity of the council on all issues but then exercise your veto,’ he said.

The same day, Israeli sources hinted at an attempt by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to end the fighting, in an deal which would see Israel ending its offensive, on the condition that Palestinian militants ceased firing the home-made Qassam rockets into Israeli settlements. However, Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat denied any knowledge of the negotiations and the violence continued.

On 6 October, Israeli soldiers shot dead six Palestinian militants in Gaza. Three were killed as they infiltrated the southern settlement of Kfar Darom, while another three died in the town of Beit Lahiya in an assault which also left 10 children wounded. Earlier the same day, Israeli forces killed the military chief of Islamic Jihad in a strike in Gaza. The death of Bashir al-Dabbash, the group’s most senior leader in the Occupied Territories, prompted calls for revenge.

Israel’s latest assault on militants in Gaza, dubbed ‘Days of Penitence’, began on 29 September after two young children were killed by a rocket attack against the border town of Sderot. Israel’s subsequent incursion on 30 September into the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing both militants and civilians and destroying homes, was the deepest in four years of fighting. Israel insists that the operation will be open-ended, lasting as long as the Palestinian attacks continue.