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France decries Israeli offensive, EU presidency calls it defensive

Latest update : 2009-01-03

France condemned Israel's ground offensive Saturday in the Gaza Strip and slammed Hamas for the continuing rocket fire. The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called the operations "defensive".

LONDON - Israel launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday after a week-long air campaign against Hamas over the firing of rockets into the Jewish state.

The Palestinian death toll, before tanks moved in, reached nearly 450. Gaza rocket attacks have killed four Israelis.

Following are comments from politicians and commentators:



MAJOR AVITAL LEIBOVITCH, ISRAELI MILITARY SPOKESWOMAN:

"The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations."



HAMAS OFFICIAL ISMAIL RADWAN:

"We have prepared the statement of victory for you (Palestinians) ... and you will see it soon."

Addressing Israeli soldiers, he said: "Gaza will not be a picnic. Gaza will be a graveyard for you."



BROOKE ANDERSON, OBAMA'S NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESWOMAN:

"The President-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza. There is one president at a time, and we intend to respect that."



CZECH EU PRESIDENCY SPOKESMAN JIRI POTUZNIK:

"At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action."

"But even the undisputable right of the state to defend itself does not allow actions which largely affect civilians."



FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY:

"France condemns the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza as it condemns the continuation of rocket firing."

"This dangerous military escalation complicates efforts by the international community and in particular the European Union and France, the members of the Quartet and the states in the region to end the fighting, bring immediate aid to civilians and reach a permanent ceasefire."



BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY DAVID MILIBAND:

"Unfolding events show the urgent need for the immediate ceasefire that we have called for. The escalation of the conflict will cause alarm and dismay. Intensive diplomatic efforts to find a solution continue."

Date created : 2009-01-03

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