WASHINGTON, July 31 (Reuters) - The shelling of a U.N. facility in Gaza this week by the Israeli military is "totally unacceptable and totally indefensible" and Israel needs to do more to protect innocent civilians, a White House spokesman said on Thursday.
Israel talks frequently about the importance it places on sparing civilian lives but the United States believes its government and military are not doing enough to that end, spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.
"The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," Earnest said.
Gaza health officials say more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered enclave. Israel says 56 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed by rockets fired by the Hamas militant group.
"We believe the Israeli government and the Israeli military need to do more to live up to the own standards that they have set for protecting innocent civilians," Earnest said.
He urged Israel to end its deadly ground operation in Gaza, saying, "These reports that hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed are tragic."
Earnest repeated U.S. calls for an immediate cease fire and urged Hamas to stop firing rockets at innocent Israeli civilians.
The Pentagon also 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. (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Bill Trott)