WASHINGTON - The Pentagon called on Israel on Thursday to do more to protect civilian life during its military operations in Gaza, saying the conflict was taking too high a toll on civilians.

"The civilian casualties in Gaza have been too high. And it's become clear that the Israelis need to do more to live up to their very high standards - their very high and very public standards - for protecting civilian life," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said at a news briefing.

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that the shelling of a UN facility in Gaza this week by the IDF is "totally unacceptable and totally indefensible."

"The shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Gaza officials say more than 1,370 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the hostilities. 56 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have been killed.

UNRWA head Pierre Krahenbuhl called on the sides in the fighting in Gaza to respect the "sanctity of UN premises," in a message that he delivered to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

Krahenbuhl said eight of his colleagues had lost their lives in Gaza since the conflict began twenty-four days ago.

Krahenbuhl said that Palestinians in Gaza have told him in recent days, "If we are not safe in a UNRWA school, we are not safe anywhere."

Krahenbuhl strongly condemned armed groups for putting weapons in UNRWA facilities, but said that this did not justify Israeli attacks on the schools. The UN Security Council convened on Thursday to discuss Israel's military offensive in Gaza which has entered its 24th day.

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