Reacting to Wednesday's Security Council resolution that criticised it for the death and destruction in Gaza, Israel vowed to continue to do whatever it considers appropriate.

Passed overwhelmingly after a US abstention, the UN Security Council resolution had earlier condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians in the southern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah.

It also called on Israel to halt house demolitions, which are in violation of international humanitarian law.

"Israel cannot continue to flout its authority and norms of international law with impunity," said Abd Allah Baali, Algeria's UN ambassador, after the vote.

"After today's butchery, Israel would be well counselled to heed the voice of reason."

US abstains

The resolution marked a significant departure for US foreign policy, which usually vetoed draft resolutions critical of its long-time ally, Israel.

James Cunningham, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, said: "While we believe that Israel has the right to act to defend itself and its citizens, we do not see that its operation in Gaza in the last few days serve the purposes of peace and security."

James Cunningham abstained

However, he said the United States could not back the resolution, because it did not take sufficient account of the "context of the military operation, which Israel says is aimed at stopping anti-Israeli attacks".

With the US abstaining, the resolution was passed by 14 votes to nil.

'We will continue'

"The resolution did not call on Israel to stop its activity and did not call on Israel to stop the demolition of houses," said Dan Gaillerman, Israel's UN ambassador.

"We will continue to do what we must do to protect our citizens."

The resolution came on the heels of an Israeli attack on a crowd of peaceful protesters in Gaza that left at least 15 Palestinians dead, reported Aljazeera.

"I believe the activities of the Israeli Defence Forces [Israeli military] in Gaza in recent days have caused a problem and have worsened the situation"

Colin Powell,
US secretary of state


In Washington, George Bush desisted from defending the Israeli attacks, but did not explicitly condemn the latest killings.

"I continue to urge restraint. It is essential that people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace," the US president said after a cabinet meeting.

"We will get clarification from the Israeli government."

Colin Powell, the secretary of state, also voiced concern, saying the latest Israeli raids in the Gaza hurt efforts to negotiate peace.

"It is a tragic incident," Powell said. "I believe the activities of the Israeli Defence Forces [Israeli military] in Gaza in recent days have caused a problem and have worsened the situation and I think made it more difficult for us to move forward and get back into the peace process."