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Palestinian civilians have accused Hamas of forcing them to stay in homes from which gunmen shot at Israeli soldiers during the recent hostilities in Gaza, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Thursday.

More than 1,250 Palestinians were reportedly killed during Israel's offensive against Hamas in the coastal territory. Israel has been harshly criticized for the large number of civilians among the Palestinian dead, of whom they numbered more than half according Gaza officials.

But the Italian paper also quoted a doctor at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital as disputing the number of Palestinians said to have been killed in the campaign.

"It's possible that the death toll in Gaza was 500 or 600 at the most, mainly youths aged 17 to 23 who were enlisted by Hamas - who sent them to their deaths," he said.

13 Israelis were also killed during the 3-week operation, which was aimed at halting rocket fire on southern Israel and destroying Hamas' infrastructure.

The Gaza doctor was further quoted as saying: "Perhaps it is like Jenin in 2002. At the beginning they spoke about 1,500 dead, and at the end it turned out to be only 54 - of whom 45 were militants."

He was referring to the Israel Defense Forces battle with Palestinian militants in the West Bank town that took place during Operation Defensive Shield at the height of the second intifada.

Top IDF officer: Hamas made 'monstrous' use of children during Gaza op

The IDF Gaza Division Commander on Thursday, meanwhile, branded Hamas' use of women and children during the offensive in Gaza as "monstrous" and "inhumane."

Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said the civilians were sent by Hamas to transfer weapons to gunmen during the offensive. He also accused the Islamist militant group of booby-trapping many of the civilians' homes.

"Entire families in Gaza lived on top of a barrel of explosives for months without knowing," Eisenberg said.

The officer asserted that despite international calls for investigations into alleged war crimes, the Israel Defense Forces soldiers adhered to moral principles while fighting in Gaza.