The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canadian Senators, MPs in Israel go to bomb shelter amid air raid sirens: trip organizer

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OTTAWA - A group of Canadian MPs and senators had a first-hand experience of what Israelis have been enduring when they were shaken up by air raid sirens during their visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday, the trip's organizer said.

The four MPs and three senators were dining in a restaurant when the sirens went off, indicating rocket attacks from Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip, said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

"When the sirens went off, they descended to the bomb shelter within the restaurant and waited there with the others who were there until the all-clear sign came," Fogel told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from Ottawa late Tuesday.

The Canadian group, which included members from all three parties, was able to understand some of the challenges confronting Israel, he said.

Fogel said because of the current situation, the group will not go to Ramallah to meet Palestinian officials as planned, but will receive them in Jerusalem before heading back home over the weekend.

Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were among Israeli cities targeted by the militants Tuesday.

The attacks have sparked the largest Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years, which has killed at least 25 people.

The rocket barrage against Israel has drawn condemnation from Canada, Britain, the United States and the United Nations.

"Canada condemns the brazen and indiscriminate attacks that Hamas continues to wage on Israel," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement.

"Canada believes that Israel has every right to defend itself from such belligerent acts of terrorism," he said.

Baird called on the new Palestinian government to exercise its authority in Gaza and bring an immediate end to the rocket attacks on Israel.

He also said Hamas must respect the ceasefire agreed in 2012.

The two sides have engaged in numerous rounds of fighting over the years, but until recently they had been observing a truce that ended the previous hostilities in 2012.

"The escalation of violence we have seen over the last several days will do nothing to advance the interests of peace," Baird added.

Fogel said he was very pleased with Baird's statement and that he was hopeful the Israeli action will help "mitigate the determination of Hamas to create the kind of instability that will push peace further away."

Ted Falk, the MP for Provencher, Man., was in the delegation.

"Tonight in Jerusalem, sirens filled the air with the warning of an incoming rocket. I have seen first hand that these warnings and attacks are becoming increasingly common in Israel," he said in an email.

"I remain in safe quarters, and throughout my travels through the Middle East I will continue to keep the prime minister and minister Baird apprised of this tense situation,” The Tory MP added.

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