The United States has used its Security Council veto to block a U.N. draft resolution condemning a deadly Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip.  Sponsors of the resolution are planning to take the matter to the General Assembly.

The Arab-backed measure received 10 votes in favor during a special Saturday session of the Security Council. Four countries, Japan, Slovakia, Denmark and Britain abstained, and the United States cast the lone "no" vote.

It was the second time this year the United States has used its veto to block passage of a resolution condemning Israeli military operations in the occupied territories.

The Arab-backed measure would have condemned the Israeli attack in Gaza last Wednesday that killed 19 Palestinian civilians. It also urged a prompt withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area.

At the same time, the draft called on the Palestinian Authority to halt the firing of rockets into Israel, which Israeli authorities say prompted its military operations.

In casting his veto, America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said he was disturbed that the draft resolution was "biased and politically motivated".

"This resolution does not display an even-handed characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace," said Mr. Bolton.

Bolton joined other Security Council ambassadors in expressing regret at the death and suffering caused by the Israeli attack. But he said it was impossible for the United States to vote in favor of the resolution because it lacked balance.

"Among many such examples are the following: The pre-ambular text equates Israeli military operations, which are legal, with the firing of rockets into Israel, aimed at civilians, which are acts of terrorism," he added.  "Moreover, its characterization of Israeli military actions as excessive and disproportionate constitutes a legal judgment that the Security Council would be ill-advised to make."

The head of the Palestinian observer mission to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, expressed disappointment with the veto. He said the Security Council's failure to act had sent wrong signals to the region.

"You have conveyed today two wrong messages," he said.  "For Israel you have conveyed that they can continue to behave above international law. For the Palestinian people, you have conveyed that justice is not being dealt with in proper way with regard to their issue by the Security Council."

Palestinian and other Arab diplomats indicated after Saturday's vote that they would bring the matter to the 192-member General Assembly, where no country has veto power. One Security Council ambassador said a special General Assembly session could be called as early as next week.