"We are highly disappointed and frustrated at the council’s continued inability to act while innocent Palestinian civilians continue to be brutally killed by the Israeli occupying forces," said Ryad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations (UN), as the United States used its veto power in the UN Security Council to stop a resolution that had been approved by ten of the fifteen Security Council nations, with four abstentions.

 US Ambassador John Bolton said the veto was a response to the "unbalanced" nature of the text which he said laid a disproportionate amount of blame on Israel for the current crisis in the region.

"Passage would have undermined the credibility of the Security Council, which itself must be seen by both sides as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict," Bolton said.

The proposed resolution urged an end to Israel’s military operations and "disproportionate use of force" in the Gaza Strip and called for the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier, held since June 25 by Palestinian resistance groups.  Bolton said the United States remained convinced that the best way to resolve the immediate crisis was for Hamas to secure Shalit’s "safe and unconditional" release.

The UN vote followed a day of some of the worst Israeli air strikes of the 19-day invasion in which a family of nine died as their home was bombed, five children playing in a playground were killed by a missile, and the Palestinian foreign ministry in Gaza was destroyed, wounding 25, including 10 children.

Meanwhile, UN head Kofi Annan stated that he was "profoundly worried" by the escalating violence and condemned any attack on civilian populations.  Annan’s crisis team was planning to leave for the region Thursday evening for a week-long mission that will begin in Cairo with meetings with Egyptian officials and Arab League foreign ministers, then to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Syria.  "He really is personally very engaged in trying to do his best to calm things down," said Annan’s spokesman Thursday.

The Security Council was also set to convene an emergency debate Friday morning on the situation in Lebanon, where Israeli jets pounded targets in retaliation for the capture and killing of its soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

The meeting was scheduled at the urgent request of the Lebanese government which called on the Security Council to "adopt a complete and immediate position for a ceasefire," after Israeli air strikes left at least 53 civilians killed in the deadliest attacks on Lebanese territory in a decade.

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