(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin )
Operation Cast Lead has yet to reach its stated goals and must continue, Ashkelon's mayor and members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said during a meeting on Wednesday.
The meeting was held at the Ashkelon Municipality's bunker command and control room, shortly before it was revealed that the security cabinet had chosen to continue the operation.
"To stop now would mean that the goals would remain unfulfilled.... Hamas is in shock. This operation must continue," Mayor Benny Vaknin said.
"I didn't imagine we would be touring Ashkelon on the most fateful day of the operation, on day 12 when the security cabinet must decide whether to pursue the set objectives... or to find excuses for a cease-fire," committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi said.
He added that "if the war stops now, Ashkelon may not be attacked any longer because the attractive targets of Tel Aviv and Gush Dan will come under fire."
Hanegbi saluted city residents and vowed to "help you free yourselves from this threat."
The committee members were briefed by city officials and learned that 90 rockets, most of them 122 millimeter Grads, have landed on Ashkelon since the start of the Gaza war.
"The home front is strong. Our morale was low when six rockets hit the city before the operation, and no reply was forthcoming," Vaknin told the committee. "Now that the response is under way, our morale is high," he added.
Four rockets were fired at Ashkelon by Wednesday evening, with one projectile landing in the courtyard of a three-story building and causing one woman to suffer an asthma attack.
The woman was evacuated to Barzilai hospital for treatment.
Earlier, Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu toured the hospital and spoke to soldiers who had been wounded during combat in Gaza.
"I was shot by a sniper," one soldier, Snir Sharosh, told Netanyahu, as he lay in the hospital bed with a bandaged hand, being hugged by his younger brother.
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