The United States vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution Saturday that sought to condemn an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and demand Israeli soldiers pull out the territory.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Arab-backed draft resolution was "biased against Israel and politically motivated."

"This resolution does not display an evenhanded characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace to which we aspire and for which we are working assiduously," he told the Security Council.

The draft received 10 votes in favour and four abstentions, along with the U.S. vote against it. Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia all abstained.

Resolution 'one-sided'

It was the second U.S. veto this year of a Security Council draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza.

The U.S. blocked action on a document this summer after Israel launched its offensive in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked Palestinian militants.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the resolution was "very one-sided."

"It's good that it wasn't accepted by the Security Council," he said.

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour said he was disappointed by the vote.

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

Nassir Al-Nasser, Qatar's UN ambassador, said the failure of the Security Council to act on the draft would lead to continued Israeli violence against Palestinians.

"Any lukewarm reaction or response on our part gives the impression we are shirking from our humanitarian responsibilities," said Al-Nasser, who sponsored the resolution on behalf of the Palestinians.

Palestinians strengthened calls for Security Council action earlier this week after an early morning Israeli artillery barrage in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killed 19 people Wednesday.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of life in Beit Hanoun, but has said it will continue operations to stop militants from launching rockets into Israel.