"Israel will not accept a "strip of terror" alongside us, and accordingly Hamas operatives have tasted the flavor of Israel’s response in the past days."

 President Peres visits Ashkelon


President Peres during his visit to Ashkelon (Photo: Flash90-Kobi Gideon)

(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

President Shimon Peres arrived this morning in Ashkelon in order to demonstrate solidarity with the residents of the city. President Peres visited children seeking refuge in a municipal bomb shelter, visited victims of Qassam and Grad rocket attacks at the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, and took part in a meeting to evaluate the situation in the municipal operations room.

While the President was visiting the children of Ashkelon in a municipal bomb shelter, the "Red Alert" siren was heard throughout the city, and Grad rockets struck. The children turned to the President and told him that they could hear the sirens. President Peres hugged the children and said, "In spite of the sirens, we are not afraid. Let’s keep playing and singing. We are protected in the shelter and we have a strong, quality army to protect us." President Peres added that, "I want to tell you, as the President, that the whole State of Israel loves you. We are proud of you, of your courage and your ability to keep playing and singing even during hard times. I have hope that the difficult moments will pass quickly and you will be able to return to your regular lives and routines."

Regarding the Grad rocket that struck a school in Beersheba this morning, President Peres said that, "We were very lucky that there were no studies this morning, otherwise children would have been hurt."

The children in the bomb shelter told the President that, "We love Ashkelon and we are not afraid," and they asked to sing him songs from "Big Brother." [An Israeli reality TV show] President Peres was not thrown off in the slightest, and held an animated conversation with the children about the show: "Who did you like the best? Who did you want to win?"

During his visit to the wounded at the Barzilai Hospital, President Peres met with Dudu Cohen, who was wounded yesterday in his leg by the falling of a Grad rocket, as well as with Majeeb, a Beduin from Rahat; both of them were hospitalized in the orthopedic ward. The President was updated on the status of the wounded and the preparations of the hospital to cope with injured Israelis on the home front.

President Peres said that, "All of us are proud of the conduct of the army as well as the civilian population. This is not the first time that Israel has been attacked, and I am convinced that we have the strength to act in the right manner until quiet prevails throughout the towns of the Gaza periphery." President Peres emphasized that, "Israel will not accept a ‘Strip of Terror’ alongside us, and accordingly Hamas operatives have tasted the flavor of Israel’s response in the last few days."

In response to a reporter’s question regarding the French proposal of a ceasefire, President Peres said that it was essential to stop all the chatter and extraneous talk of a ceasefire; any such deliberations must take place far from the spotlight, and there is no point in a cease fire in any case until there is a cessation of terror.

At the end of his visit, President Peres thanked the Mayor of Ashkelon, Benny Vaknin, for his good stewardship of Ashkelon during this period and said that he was encouraged by the optimism and the strength that the residents of Ashkelon had demonstrated, and that they stand on the front lines of Israel.