JERUSALEM - Israel on Thursday toned down its criticism of the Vatican, saying that remarks by Pope Francis' deputy on the killings in Gaza were "regrettable" rather than "deplorable".

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin had said on Tuesday that Israel's military response to the Hamas militant group was disproportionate and caused "carnage".

A day later, Israel's embassy to the Holy See lashed out at Parolin's "deplorable statement" and said the Palestinian militant group Hamas bore all the blame for the death and destruction in the enclave.

But on Thursday, the embassy said it should have used the word "regrettable", and that the mix-up was the result of an imprecise translation.

The Israeli embassy said on Thursday the original English text of its statement had used the word "regrettable" and its staff had translated that into "deplorevole" in the Italian version they released.

"A more precise" Italian translation would have been "sfortunata", the embassy said, a word which means something more like unfortunate.

Pope Francis has regularly condemned violence across the Middle East and beyond. But any comments involving Israel have particular historical and cultural sensitivities, built up over centuries.