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A number of western Negev regional leaders met yesterday for the first time in years to adopt a unified approach to "force the government to decide to end Qassam fire on [Israeli] communities," Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahatzri said yesterday.

The leaders of the municipal authorities, which include communities in the Gaza envelope, Sderot and Ashkelon, will demand to address the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mahatzri said.

The leaders have decided to allot a certain amount of their community budget to public relations, to inform people of the residents' plight in light of the security situation.

Delegates to the meeting slammed the government for its inability to halt the rockets and provide better protection for the communities.

"We demand the government make a decision within a few days. There is a price for stopping rocket fire and there is a price for military operations, but a decision must be made," said the Sha'ar Hanegev regional chairman.

The western Negev absorbs rockets and mortar shells on a daily basis. The attacks have left dozens killed and wounded.

The Knesset Finance Committee last month approved an NIS 400 million increase to the budget allotted to protecting Gaza-area communities from rockets.

The budget is designated for the building of fortified schools and homes in communities within the range of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.