US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Thursday that Israel had killed more than 25,000 Palestinian women and children since October, but the Pentagon later clarified he was citing the overall toll from Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry.

"It's over 25,000," Austin responded when asked during a House Armed Services Committee hearing for the figure on women and children killed.

Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, and Israel responded with a relentless assault on Gaza.

The United States has provided extensive backing for its ally, but Washington has recently been pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza and a reduction in civilian casualties.

Following Austin's remarks, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said the secretary had been "citing an estimate from the Hamas-controlled health ministry that more than 25,000 total Palestinians have been killed in Gaza."

"We cannot independently verify these Gaza casualty figures," she added.

The health ministry put the toll at more than 25,000 killed in Gaza on January 21 -- over a month ago -- and said Thursday that more than 30,000 people have been left dead by the nearly five-month conflict in the coastal territory.

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