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      Ashdod Prepares to be Next Target of Gaza Missiles

      The city of Ashdod, several kilometers north of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean, is preparing to be the next to come within rocket-range of Gaza.
      By Ezra HaLevi
      First Publish: 3/5/2008, 9:34 AM

      The city of Ashdod, several kilometers north of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean and home to over 200,000 residents, is preparing to be the next city to come within range of rockets from Gaza.

      The Ashdod Municipality says it does not intend to wait for the rockets to fall and is making preparations to protect its residents already, together with the IDF’s Home Front Command. In the security establishment, it is already acknowledged that Iran may have already supplied Hamas with missiles capable of reaching double the distance the Grad-type Katyushas landing in Ashkelon can reach.

      The fifth largest city in Israel, Ashdod's port is Israel's largest, accounting for sixty percent of the country's imported goods. The city isis mentioned thirteen times in the Bible.

      Hamas has recently been making vocal threats of the type heard from Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah prior to that terrorist group’s firing of rockets at Haifa and Hadera, from the north, during the Second Lebanon War. “We will strike beyond Ashkelon,” several Hamas leaders have declared at rallies and Arabic press conferences, according to Maariv. Many have mentioned Ashdod by name.

      The Ashdod municipality emphasizes that the steps being taken now are merely precautions and do not indicate an intelligence assessment that places the town under threat in the near future. Local officials, however, have been spending much of their time in Ashkelon, learning from up close how a major city deals with alerting and protecting its citizenry from airborne bombs fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

      If Ashdod becomes a target, that means the cities of Kiryat Gat and Ofakim would be within range as well. IDF intelligence believes that Hamas may be waiting for a large-scale ground operation or the killing of one of its top terrorists to use the longer-range missiles.