EU Presidency: Israel Ground Op in Gaza 'Defensive Not Offensive'

Czech Foreign Minister leading EU delegation to Mideast Sunday; spokesman says presidency will wait to see results of visit.

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PRAGUE - European Union president, the Czech Republic, said Saturday an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza was "defensive, not offensive" action.

"At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action," Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik said.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is leading an EU delegation to the region Sunday, and Potuznik said the presidency will wait to see the results of that visit.

Israel sent troops into Gaza on Saturday evening, eight days after launching air strikes on the coastal strip, which came in the wake of a breakdown in a six-month truce with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Dozens of rockets have been fired at Israel's southern communities over the past two weeks, killing four Israelis. The air strikes in Gaza have killed at least 420 Gazans, according to Palestinian reports.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday branded the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel an act of terror and outlined his own condition for a cease-fire in Gaza, saying no peace deal would be acceptable without monitoring to halt the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups.

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