James Cleverly described the scenes as “heart-breaking” and called on both sides to de-escalate.
He said Hamas was firing rockets “indiscriminately” but called on Israel to react “proportionately”.
It comes after Hamas militants launched scores of rockets at Israel after Israeli air strikes killed senior commanders on Wednesday. The escalating conflict has also triggered street violence in Israel between Jews and Israeli Arabs.
The Minister for Middle East and North Africa told Sky News: “It is important for both sides to take a step back. We have seen however an unprecedented level of rocket attacks into Israel.
“As President Biden said…Israel has the right to defend itself. We’ve always said that in doing so they must seek to minimise civilian casualties.”
He called for a “de-escalation” of violence and for the rockets to stop, adding: “We expect Israel to make every effort to minimise civilian casualties but ultimately the best way of doing so is for the rocket attacks to stop, for Israel to no longer feel the need to strike targets in Gaza.”
Asked if he thought Israel was acting in a defensive way, he added: “We should recognise that the rockets being fired from Gaza…that came before Israel’s response in terms of attacking targets in Gaza.
“As I said Israel has a right to defend itself. But we expect that in doing so they abide by international humanitarian law, that they minimise civilian casualties and they act proportionately.”