LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday for what his spokesman called a fact-finding trip and a show of solidarity as the Jewish state battles a Palestinian militia in Gaza.
Baca is to meet with Israeli leaders and tour medical facilities that specialize in treating wounded police and soldiers, and also plans to visit the nation's southern region, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.
He is scheduled to return to Los Angeles on Monday.
"This is a fact-finding trip and a show of solidarity," Whitmore said.
Baca took the trip at the request of county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, but paid for it out of his own pocket, Whitmore said.
"Zev thought it would be an important statement for the country for the sheriff of the nation's largest jurisdiction to see what's going on first-hand," said Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman.
The sheriff has long-established ties with Israeli police, having received training from both them and the Israeli Defense Forces, Whitmore said.
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Baca on Thursday released a statement supporting Israel's military incursion into Gaza, as it tries to get Hamas to stop lobbing unguided missiles at Israeli towns.
"Suicide bombers or the launchers of rockets indiscriminately into civilian communities is the deadliest form of murder against innocent civilians. There is no political or military benefit to these acts," Baca said.
"It was the hope for peace that led Israel to withdraw from Gaza. It is the terrorism of Hamas that compels Israel to reenter," he said.
Groups of supporters of Israel and the Palestinians demonstrated in front of the Israeli Consulate in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles on Tuesday, separated by police.
While one side waved Israeli flags, the other carried signs saying "Resist Zionism and Imperialism" and shouted "Free Palestine."
The demonstration was one of many that have been staged in connection with Israel's ground and air offensive intended to stop Hamas' rocket attacks.