Israel has evidence that almost half of Palestinians killed in the 25-day-old Gaza war were combatants, its deputy foreign minister said on Saturday, pushing back against international allegations of a lopsidedly heavy civilian death toll.

Gazan human rights groups say at least 80 percent of the 1,669 Palestinians killed have been non-combatants, including hundreds of children. The U.N. Human Rights Council last week accused the Israelis of “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks” and launched an inquiry into possible war crimes.

Israel, which has lost 63 soldiers and 3 civilians to the fighting, says it has done everything possible to avoid harming innocents and that Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists invite such casualties by operating in densely populated areas. […]