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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Parliamentarians, minus NDP, travel to Israel for "perspective" mission

OTTAWA - A group of Canadian MPs and a senator are headed to Israel for what's being billed as a solidarity mission.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs says the trip is designed to give the half-dozen parliamentarians firsthand knowledge and perspective on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

But the parliamentarians won't be going to Gaza to witness the fighting there.

And no New Democrat MPs are among those expected to arrive in Tel Aviv Tuesday.

Shimon Fogel, the centre's CEO, said the trip was arranged at the last minute, and only English-speaking parliamentarians who have been to the region before were invited.

Fogel also made no excuses for the fact that the view they'll get of the conflict will be one-sided, with briefings provided by Israeli government and military officials.

"My hope is that they will get (from) either Palestinian leadership that they meet with or the Canadian representative to Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority . . . some insight into some of the other perspective," Fogel said in an interview.

"But for us the issue is very much focused on what Israel has had to endure, what precipitated this particular hot conflict and some of the underlying issues that really have to be addressed."

The Harper Conservatives have also made it clear that they support Israel in the conflict, which has seen dozens of Israelis and hundreds of Palestinians killed over the past two weeks.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have made repeated calls on Hamas militants to stop their rocket attacks against Israel.

And they have strongly defended Israel's right to defend itself.

Diplomatic efforts have so far failed to broker a truce between the sides, even during the Muslim Eid holiday.

Iraeli and Palestinian authorities traded blame Monday for a strike on a Gaza park that killed 10 people, nine of them children.

Israel's prime minister has warned his people that they must be "ready for a prolonged campaign'' against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Benjamin Netanyahu also said in a televised speech Monday that a demilitarization of Gaza must be part of any future solution in the territory.

The six parliamentarians travelling on the mission, which returns to Canada on Thursday, are: Liberal MPs Carolyn Bennett and John McCallum, Conservative MPs Randy Hoback, Ted Opitz and David Sweet and Liberal Sen. Grant Mitchell.

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