The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll has surpassed 15,200 and that 70 per cent of those killed were women and children.
The figure was announced on Saturday by ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, who did not provide further details.
The previous toll given by the ministry was more than 13,300 dead. Al-Qidra did not explain the sharp jump. However, the ministry had only been able to provide sporadic updates since November 11, amid problems with connectivity and major war-related disruptions in hospital operations. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.
More than 40,000 people have been wounded, al-Qidra said.
Israel intensified a renewed offensive that followed a weeklong truce with Hamas, giving rise to renewed concerns about civilian casualties, even as the US urged ally Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians.
“This is going to be very important going forward," secretary of state Antony Blinken said n Friday after meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Dubai, wrapping up his third West Asia tour since the war started. "It's something we're going to be looking at very closely.”
Many of Israel's attacks on Saturday were focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it had struck more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire and its navy.
The military dropped leaflets the day before warning residents to leave but, as of late Friday, there had been no reports of large numbers of people leaving, according to the UN.
“There is no place to go,” lamented Emad Hajar, who fled with his wife and three children from the northern town of Beit Lahia a month ago to seek refuge in Khan Younis.
“They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south.”
Israel's military said it also carried out strikes in the north and hit more than 400 targets all across the Gaza Strip.
Some 2 million people — almost Gaza's entire population — are crammed into the territory's south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war's start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza or neighbouring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 220-square-kilometre area.