Ashkelon mayor after Qassam lands: `IDF isn't doing enough'
A Qassam rocket landed yesterday in the industrial zone located south of Ashkelon. There were no casualties or damage, but there is growing concern about the vulnerability of strategic sites in the area.
At noon yesterday the Red Dawn early-warning system identified a Qassam launch. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the rocket was launched from the area of the razed settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip. It landed near a factory in Ashkelon's southern industrial zone. Police sappers removed the remains of the rocket.
Last Thursday, another Qassam rocket landed not far from yesterday's site. To date, three Qassams have landed in the industrial region in south Ashkelon: the first one, two-and-a-half years ago; the other two in the past four days.
Officials in the defense establishment explain that this is not a question of a new type of rocket, rather the Qassams are now being set off from launching pads that are moving closer to Israel following the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
The IDF recently installed the Red Dawn system in the industrial zone and southern neighborhoods of Ashkelon. However, the system will only begin to operate fully in two or three weeks, a delay that mystifies Ashkelon's mayor, Roni Mehatzri: "I don't understand why they have to wait and aren't doing this now," he said.
Mehatzri spoke with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz following yesterday's rocket attack.
"I was assured that the response will be such that this will not continue," Mehatzri said. "There is no doubt that the Qassams have begun to bother residents."
Mehatzri also spoke yesterday with IDF officials, including the commander of the Home Front Command. "I don't understand how they can permit fire from an area like the former settlement Dugit, toward Ashkelon. I simply do not understand how such a thing happens. Such a reality must not be allowed to exist here and that's what I'm angry about," the mayor said last night.
Mehatzri is certain the army can prevent the rockets from landing in Ashkelon: "The IDF could provide a better response to these threats if it operated near the border - [near] the areas where the Qassams are launched. If the army were operating there, the Qassams wouldn't be reaching Ashkelon. I'm not panicking, but I am certainly worried about the situation. You can't remain indifferent. Apparently the IDF isn't doing enough in these areas."
Mehatzri is convening a special meeting today to discuss the matter with the police and Home Front Command.