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Friday, February 2, 2007

In Sderot, N.Y. Mayor expresses solidarity with town's residents

Last update - 20:20 02/02/2007   

In Sderot, N.Y. Mayor expresses solidarity with town's residents
By The Associated Press

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured the western Negev town of Sderot on Friday, expressing solidarity with residents, who have endured frequent Palestinian Qassam rocket fire.
Escorted by Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, Bloomberg visited a police station, a
youth center and an observation point less than two kilometers from the Gaza Strip.
More than 1,300 rockets launched from Gaza have hit southern Israel since troops and settlers were withdrawn from the coastal strip in September 2005, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Hundreds have landed in Sderot, a town of 20,000.
At the police station, Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of the Bloomberg L.P. financial information company, was shown a display of rockets that hit the city.
He also met with the father of Ayala Abukasis, a 17-year-old girl who was killed two years ago in a rocket attack on the city.
"I have two daughters, and I can't imagine," Bloomberg told Yonatan Abukasis as the mayor translated for him. "Thank you for coming," Abukasis replied.
The youth center the mayor visited was dedicated to the dead girl. There, he helped to plant a tree in her memory, helping to hoist the tree upright and shoveling dirt into the base.
"Sadly, there are people just on the other side of that valley who shoot missiles at [the people of Sderot] and these missiles kill," Bloomberg said. "And I think this town, as much as any place you'll ever visit, tells you why we can never negotiate with terrorists."
Asked if he was afraid to come to Sderot, Bloomberg replied, "I'm not afraid of terrorists."
Although the rockets are crude and rarely cause casualties, they have killed nine people since 2001.
David Fendel, a Sderot resident originally from Long Island, criticized U.S. President George W. Bush's request that Congress give $86 million to security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"It's up to the State Department to decide," Bloomberg said.
After his trip to Sderot, Bloomberg headed for Ben-Gurion International Airport for a flight to Jordan, where he was to meet with King Abdullah II.
Before takeoff - and without mentioning Hamas by name - he supported Israel's refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians' Hamas-led government until the Islamic militant group recognizes Israel's right to exist, renounces violence and accepts existing peace agreements beetween the Palestinians and Israel.
Bloomberg was accompanied on his two-day trip to Israel by his sister, Marjorie Tiven, his daughter, Emma, and his 98-year-old mother, Charlotte.
On Thursday, he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Acting President Dalia Itzik. He also dedicated a $6.5 million emergency rescue service facility in Jerusalem named for his late father, William H. Bloomberg, who died in 1963.

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