Western Negev Council Heads Implore PM to Stop Qassam Fire

In letter, council heads say rocket fire has turned them into hostages, is causing an exodus from area.

Western Negev regional council heads on Tuesday turned to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requesting he bring an immediate end to the Qassam attacks from Gaza and that he come to their communities to see the effect of the rockets on the quality of life of their residents.

In a letter sent by the council heads to Olmert, they stated that the government of Israel must "work to immediately end the missile threat hanging over our residents, that disrupts our lives and turns us into hostages of cruel terrorists."

In the letter, the council heads also criticize the government as being solely responsible for their security, and allege that "because we are residents of the periphery, far from the center of Israel, we are asked to hold still, to wait patiently until the government fills its responsibility to ensure our safety."

The council heads also express their worry that the "the corrosive, ongoing erosion of the national and mental fortitude of our residents, many of whom are carrying emotional trauma, anxiety and shock, some of them suffering from amputations and eternal physical scars, some of whom have lost loved ones, have left them suffering from feelings of frustration and helplessness, as they are exposed on a daily basis to the threat of death."

The council heads also say that the situation in their communities has led many residents to flee the area.

Palestinian rocket crews target western Negev communities on a near daily basis, and last week, a long-range rocket hit a mallin Ashkelon, wounding 90, four seriously.

Last Sunday, the leaders met for the first time in years to form a unified approach to "force the government to decide to end Qassam fire on [Israeli] communities," Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mahtsari said on Sunday.

The leaders said they will demand to address the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mahtsari 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.