JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday denounced what he called the "hypocrisy" of the United Nations after UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded Israel protect the lives of children in Gaza.
"This is a black day for the UN," Netanyahu said. "Instead of pointing out the fact that Hamas made hostages of Gaza children when it fired from kindergartens... the UN chooses once again to preach at Israel."
"Evidently there is no limit to hypocrisy," the Israeli leader said in a statement.
Ban on Thursday urged Israel to protect the lives of Palestinian children, who bore the brunt of last year's military operations in the Gaza Strip.
"Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict," the UN chief said, adding he was "deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year."
He made his remarks as the United Nations issued a new report highlighting what Ban called "unprecedented challenges for children in conflict zones around the world".
The UN secretary general said that last year was particularly lethal for children in Gaza, where more than 500 died.
The United Nations has accused the Israeli army of being responsible for strikes on buildings where civilians were sheltering during the conflict.
At the height of the Gaza conflict, some 300,000 displaced Palestinians were sheltering in some 91 UN schools, several of which were hit by Israeli strikes.
"I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals," said Ban.
In a letter addressed to Ban, Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor said Hamas - the blockaded territory's de facto rulers - were to blame for Gaza casualties involving non-combatants, and accused it of having "used Palestinian civilians, including children, as human shields" during the fighting.
Last year's war killed 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, 67 of them soldiers.
Israel maintains that it needed to target those facilities because Palestinian militants were using the areas to store weapons and fire rockets.