Barak holds meeting with Bloomberg, says: "The residents of New York know what terrorism is."
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, AP
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a one-day solidarity visit to Ashkelon and Sderot on Sunday, where he met local officials and residents, toured Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, and expressed support for Israel's right to act against rocket attacks.
Bloomberg, who flew to Israel on his personal jet, was accompanied by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and US Congressman Gary Ackerman, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, and is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Bloomberg said he fully understood Israel's actions.
"You should rest assured, if anyone in New York was being threatened, my instruction to the NYPD would be to use all the resources at their disposal to protect civilians," Bloomberg was quoted by AP as saying.
"I think as a New Yorker, we've been attacked twice by al-Qaida itself," said the mayor, who is Jewish. "We've seen enormous devastation and courage and after that you sort of feel you have a bond, if you will, for those who live in a dangerous world and subject to someone trying to kill them."
Bloomberg blamed the current situation entirely on Hamas.
"All Hamas has to do is stop sending rockets over to kill people and agree on the accords that were negotiated earlier and come to an agreement that is verifiable, durable and effective to stop people from being killed," he said.
During the visit to Sderot, Bloomberg and his party briefly had to be hustled to a bomb shelter when a missile warning went off.
Marty Davis, director of Zionist activities for the World Zionist Organization, and a former resident of Brooklyn, currently resides is Ashkelon. He helped organize Bloomberg's visit.
"This shows that Bloomberg stands with the ordinary man in Israel, meeting with us and not only with senior officials. I'm very happy to be a part of this visit," Davis said.
According to Davis, Bloomberg said no country in the world would be willing to put up with the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza.
Asked if his visit would stir controversy among some residents of New York, Bloomberg said he did not encounter opposition from Muslim leaders to the solidarity visit, Davis said. "He left the good life and came here to Israel, to say that he stands with us."
Ackerman said the onus of the civilian deaths was on Hamas for using them as human shields.
"They have been the main victimizers of the innocent Palestinian people by inviting these kinds of attacks," he said.
Bloomberg met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Sunday evening before returning to New York.
AP contributed to this report.
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