Simulating a major rocket attack on the urban centers of the South, the Home Front Command staged a large-scale drill across the Lachish region near the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in which the army, local police and emergency personnel examined their coordinated response and checked the status of shelters in schools, apartments and public buildings. The drill, which included operations in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Shafir and Yoav - communities all well within the updated range of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets that Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin disclosed on Sunday - was the first drill of its kind to cover the entire region. However, military sources said, emphasis was put on Ashkelon both because of previous rocket attacks on the city and because of its size and proximity to the Gaza Strip. "While the security services have announced that rockets could reach as far as Beersheba, it's very likely that [terrorist elements] will focus on closer targets like Ashkelon," said a colonel from the Home Front Command who spoke to The Jerusalem Post during the drill. "Of course, they could fire a rocket or two to show that they're capable of hitting Beersheba, but as far as damage is concerned, Ashkelon is an attractive target. It's not like Sderot - it's large and spread out, heavily populated and well within Hamas's striking range." The colonel explained that the drill focused on the Lachish region as a whole because of its vulnerability, and checked the preparedness of the various local authorities and military forces in the area to deal with a major rocket attack. Nonetheless, he emphasized that the drill was not being held in light of recent developments in the Gaza Strip, but had been planned for over a year. "We knew already a year ago that we would be holding a drill in the region at the end of December," he said. "We aren't necessarily introducing anything new here, but we're certainly paying attention to the developments in Gaza and taking them into consideration." The nerve centers of the drill were in two separate underground shelters in Ashkelon - one in a mall and the other in the municipality's emergency center, next to the central bus station. Home Front Command officers and reservists ran through dozens of scenarios that could arise in the event of a major rocket attack on any of the nearby population centers. Police and emergency crews took part in the drill, as did municipality employees. In addition to checking response times and running through attack scenarios, the Home Front Command focused its efforts on informing residents where to find bomb shelters, what to do in the event of a rocket strike and how to take care of their families if they suddenly found themselves under rocket fire. "Ashkelon is 100-percent fortified," the Home Front Command colonel said. "That means there are bomb shelters for every resident, and everyone has a shelter to go to, if they want to." The colonel also said letters had been sent to residents with instructions on how to deal with scenarios that might accompany a rocket strike. "Once people understand what to do and where to go, they calm down," he said. "The fear subsides and the panic goes away." But on the streets of Ashkelon Tuesday evening, residents were far from calm. "Where's my shelter?" one man, Yaakov, asked as he sat at the counter in his small grocery store on the Rehov Hahistadrut thoroughfare. "I have no idea where it is. Let's say something happens while I'm here at work - I have no idea where I'm supposed to go. You know, before we left Gaza, I said, okay, let's leave, and the first rocket they send over here, we'll blow them out of the water. But by this point, I've given up hope. It's all nonsense." Responding to the residents' complaints, an army spokesman told the Post that "it's easy to find a group of people in the street who want to complain, but the Home Front Command has done an enormous amount of work in the area. Although it might not be finished in a day, the army has done a lot. Furthermore, I've never heard of anyone in Ashkelon not knowing where their shelter is. That's unheard of."