The Israeli army said on Monday it regretted the death of a Palestinian teacher killed during an Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip last week and blamed militants for operating in built-up areas.

Responding to a call by her U.N. employers for an inquiry into the death of Wafa al-Daghma on May 7, the Israeli Defence Forces said: "Following an initial inquiry into the matter, the incident took place in an area in which ongoing fighting and fire exchanges occurred between IDF forces and armed gunmen."

The statement added: "The IDF wishes to express sorrow for any injury of uninvolved individuals.

"The IDF places complete and utter responsibility on the Hamas terrorist organisation for the injury and killing of uninvolved civilians."

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for whom Daghma, 32, worked as an elementary school teacher, said it believed she was killed when troops blasted open the door of her home during a raid into the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

An Israeli security source said troops looking into her death concluded that the soldiers involved acted appropriately.

A tally by Reuters of deaths reported in Gaza shows that Israeli troops killed more than 100 civilians in the first four months of 2008. Israeli human rights group B'tselem said Israeli forces had killed 323 Palestinians in Gaza so far this year.

Human rights groups have called on Israel to conduct independent investigations into several civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip. Among these was the killing of a mother and four of her children on April 28 and the death of a Reuters television cameraman and several other civilians on April 16.