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Hebrew: ashklon
Arabic: ¢asqalān
Other spelling: Ashqelon

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Ashkelon, Israel.
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Ashkelon, Israel. Photo: David King.

Ashkelon, Israel.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Ashkelon, Israel.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Photo: David King.

City in west-central Israel with 110,000 inhabitants (2008 estimate), on the Mediterranean Sea.
Ashkelon's economy is based on a number of industries, producing textiles, plastics, wristwatches and automobile parts. There are also industries processing agricultural products. An oil line from Eilat and the Gulf of Aqaba is linked with the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon. Tourism is also of much importance, benefiting from the fine beach in front of the city.
Ashkelon is well connected with urban centres in the rest of Israel by road and rail. Ashdod is 15 km north, metropolitan Tel Aviv 50 km north, Jerusalem 65 km northeast and Beer Sheva 60 km southeast. Gaza Strip of Palestine is 15 km south.
The city scene is dominated by the beach in front, and the ruins in the southern part of town.
Ashkelon has through millennia been of great strategic importance for the control of Palestine, being at the southernmost coast of the region.

Around 2000 BCE: Oldest traces of settlement at the site of Ashkelon.
Late 13th century: Conquered by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah.
12th century: Ashkelon passes to the Philistines.
735: Comes under Assyrian rule.
Early 6th century: Many of the inhabitants of Ashkelon are deported to Babylon by the command of King Nebuchadnezzar 2.
332: Conquered by Alexander the Great.
Late 4th century: Fights between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties over the town, known now as Ascalon.
636 CE: Conquered by Muslim Arabs.
1099: Fatimid forces of Egypt are defeated at the Battle of Ascalon by Christian Crusaders, but the town is not taken.
1150: Ascalon is fortified to defend it against the Crusaders.
1153: Ascalon falls to the Crusaders.
1187: Recaptured by the Muslim troops under the leadership of Saladin, who also has its walls torn down.
1191: Saladin abandons Ascalon.
1270: Sultan Baybars 1 of Egypt oders the destruction of Ascalon, which is then abandoned.
1920: A two year archaeological program of excavating the ruins of Ashkelon is begun.
— At some time in history, the town is reinhabited by Arab-speaking Palestinians, and named al-Majdal.
1948: With the First Palestinian War, most of the 11,000 Palestinians of al-Majdal flee. About 2,000 remained after Israeli independence, but all but a few hundred were eventually forced to leave.
1949 July: Al-Majdal is begun repopulated by Jews, moving into the abandoned Palestinian homes.
1950: A new modern town is built to the west of al-Majdal.
1953: The settlement is named Ashkelon.
1985: Excavations are begun at Ashkelon.
2005: The world's largest water desalination plant is opened near Ashkelon.

By Tore Kjeilen