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UN 'shocked' at civilian toll of Israeli operation to free hostages

Asked about figures provided by the Gaza health ministry, he said that prior to Oct 7, when there was greater possibility to check, the UN had consistently found «the numbers they provide us are… very close to being 100-percent accurate».

The UN rights office has had limited access to verify numbers since the war started but Laurence said it still had contacts on the ground «who are reliable».

Asked about hostages held in Gaza, Laurence said this was also «prohibited by international law».

Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva reacted by alleging that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, had «finally realised that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields».

«Yet, instead of taking a clear and consistent stance against this abhorrent strategy, he falls into the habit of slandering Israel. This time, for rescuing our hostages,» it said.

«Those who continue to shield Hamas terrorists, including OHCHR (Turk's office), are complicit in the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis alike.»