Barak: Hamas will bear consequences

On tour of rocket-hit Ashkelon, defense minister says group responsible for deteriorating situation.

avi dichter 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avi dichter 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"Hamas is responsible for the deteriorating [security] situation and it will bear the consequences," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday afternoon, as rockets continued to hit the western Negev and the IAF struck back at targets in the Gaza Strip. During a tour of the sites hit in Thursday's Grad missile attack on Ashkelon, Barak added that "Israel's response to the rocket fire from Gaza is essential and is being executed." The defense minister met with Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mehatzri, Home Front Command officials and representatives from the city's education system. Barak was accompanied by deputy Defense Minister Martan Vilna'i and the Defense Ministry's deputy director-general, Victor Bar-Gil. Earlier Friday, dozens of soldiers in orange berets from the Home Front Command arrived in Ashkelon and hung posters around the city instructing residents on what to do in case of a rocket attack. In addition, Barak on Thursday night approved the activation in the city of the already installed "Color Red" warning system there. The system has long been in use in Sderot to allow residents a few extra seconds to seek shelter before rockets thunder in. Until Barak's approval, Ashkelon's more than 100,000 residents had no advance warning of incoming missiles. Despite the new measures, Mehatzri said Friday morning that the city was not prepared for the new reality of rocket attacks. "It's a city of 120,000 people, with large facilities - a huge soccer stadium, and a basketball stadium, and a beach. No one is ready for this," Mehatzri told Israel Radio. The Ashkelon mayor went on to say that the city's hospitals were not fortified against rockets and that there were no appropriate measures in place to assist the elderly during an attack. He also said the city was not prepared to treat shock victims. One of Thursday's Grads struck a house in the city, where a child was home alone. This first rocket to hit an Ashkelon home burst through the wall, causing damage to the residence as well as to neighbors' houses, but the young boy escaped without injury. He was treated for shock by MDA emergency crews. A 17-year-old girl was less fortunate later in the evening, when a missile landed near her, its shrapnel wounding her lightly. Dozens more people were sent into shock as a result of the barrage. Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report