US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel's conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government's declared intentions to protect Palestinian civilians and the casualties.
"As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south... it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection," Blinken told a press conference after meeting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.
"And there does remain a gap between... the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we're seeing on the ground."
Israel says it must wipe out Hamas after its attack on Israel two months ago and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm's way, including warnings about military operations.
A senior US State Department official said Blinken spoke earlier Thursday with Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer to say the US is pleased with new deliveries of fuel to Gaza but still wants to see those and other assistance deliveries increased.
At the same time, Blinken told Dermer that civilian casualties remain too high and that Israel must step up its efforts to reduce them, according to the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic discussion.
US President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah on Thursday.
Biden "emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities," the White House said.
More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Hamas fighters. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel's tally.
The Israeli military on Friday said 92 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza fighting since its ground incursions began on Oct. 20.