White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday called the strike on a United Nations school in Gaza the day before “indefensible” and said Israel must do more to protect civilians in its ongoing military campaign against Hamas.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza “indefensible.” (AP Photo)

Earnest said the U.S. has no reason to dispute that Israel is responsible for the shelling of the school, which Palestinians said killed 17 people and injured 90.

“The Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians,” Earnest said. “There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country. But the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilian who are fleeting violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. It is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”

Israel says Hamas uses human shield by placing rockets in areas with high civilian populations. Earlier this month, a U.N. agency discovered rockets hidden in one of its schools in Gaza.

“We have steadfastly defended Israel’s right to take the actions that they feel necessary to protect their people and to defend their turf,” Earnest said. “The steps that they have taken have also been taken with the standards that they put in place to protect the lives of innocent civilians. That stands in pretty stark contrast to the approach adopted by Hamas that is actually using their military might to target innocent Israeli civilians.”

Israel has said it was conducting strikes in the area of the school in response to militant fire. Despite the Israeli military’s efforts to warn civilians prior to striking a target, more than 1,300 Palestinians have died.

“The observation I think many across the globe have made is despite those high standards, there are innocent Palestinian lives being lost,” Earnest said. “What we are simply asking the Israelis to do, in fact urging the Israelis to do, is to do more to live up to the standards that they have set for their own military operations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.”