They are the target of rockets, cars are exploding on their streets because of criminal in-fighting, but the residents of the southern Israeli
city of Ashkelon still never expected to be compared to Gaza. The IDF
is preparing for an exercise in which Ashkelon will be seized as if it were Gaza.
At the end of November, thousands of IDF soldiers, jeeps, and military vehicles will flood Ashkelon and the surrounding areas. War rooms will appear on the ground, and the feeling of war will descend on the city.
The preparations for the large-scale military drill are being handled with fervor in the Gaza
Division, a subordinate to the IDF's Southern Command, created for the purpose of controlling the Gaza Strip after the breakout of the first Intifada
The Division chose Ashkelon
after searching for a city that has similar parameters to Gaza and reaching the conclusion that the city was the closest fit; like Gaza, the city lies near the beach. Another reason for the perceived insult: while Ashkelon has many upscale neighborhoods, it is also home to many old, decaying ones.
The IDF stated that the exercise would not interfere with the day-to-day life of residents, nor should they experience any delays or difficulties. The military does not intend to use public facilities or to block streets and throughways.
The Ashkelon Municipality said the city will cooperate with the military as required and that local police will also participate in the exercise.
Unexpectedly, the residents of Ashkelon are perturbed not by the chaotic nature of such a large-scale drill, but by the comparison to Gaza. Moshe Mazer, a local resident, complained that the city's only resemblance to Gaza is its proximity to the beach, but added, "If (the drill) improves the IDF's preparation, we will accept the modest insult to our honor."
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