Israel’s military says more civilian deaths in Gaza are “inevitable”, claiming that Hamas fighters are using Palestinians as cover.
More than one million Palestinians were warned to move south through Gaza at the weekend by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), ahead of an expected ground invasion.
In recent days, more than 80 people have been killed in attacks in the south following Israeli airstrikes, according to the Hamas-run government.
The United Nations added six people were killed in an airstrike on a school run by the organisation in Gaza’s Al Maghazi refugee camp.
As well as civilian casualties, the Palestinian health ministry, which is run by Hamas, claimed up to 300 people, which they called “martyrs”, were killed in a bombing that targeted a hospital in Gaza City.
Sky News has not been able to independently verify the claim.
IDF spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, told Sky News: “You can’t expect us not to protect our civilians because Hamas are hiding behind theirs.
“We are in a huge effort… to minimise the civilian consequences of this conflict. But, and I say this very sadly, there will, and it is unfortunate and inevitable that this will continue to happen.”
He added: “We are going out of our way to refrain and minimise the civilian casualties, and it is indeed an extremely challenging task as pointed out, with the density of the population in Gaza.”
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, the IDF said it had cancelled a “large number” of attacks in recent days, which it said was done to avoid civilian casualties.
The lieutenant colonel added if it is directed to open a humanitarian corridor by the government, then it will, but until then, the IDF will continue its “fight”.
The comments came amid fears the war could escalate, with US President Joe Biden expected in the region on Wednesday in an effort to calm tensions.
He will visit Israel to signal support for the country, then onward to neighbouring Jordan, where he will meet leaders from the Arab world, with concerns the conflict may spread in the region.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also expected to visit Israel, Sky News Understands, possibly as part of a wider visit to the region.
Other key developments:
• A 13-year-old British girl missing with her sister after the Hamas attack is confirmed to have died
• Director of Rafah border crossing killed
• Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields
• The UN operation in Gaza “on verge of collapse”, an official says
• US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Israel on Wednesday
• Violence is rising in the West Bank as number of Palestinians killed reaches 61
• Israel says it may do “something different” to its expected ground offensive
Israel has besieged and bombed Gaza since the Hamas militant attack on southern Israel on 7 October.
The chief of Israel’s military intelligence, Major General Aharon Haliva, has written a letter taking responsibility for failure to anticipate the deadly attack.
More than 1,300 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas assault, with about 200 hostages held captive in Gaza.
At least 3,000 people in Gaza have been killed in retaliatory strikes and 12,500 others have been injured, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Hamas was responsible for the safety of civilians in Gaza, including hostages they have taken, and claimed the group is using citizens as human shields.
Hundreds of people are feared buried under the rubble, and more than a million Palestinians have fled their homes, with aid agencies warning of a deteriorating humanitarian crisis.
Concerns about dehydration and diseases were high as water and sanitation services had collapsed.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said only around 14% of Gazans had access to water
“People will start dying without water,” it said.