History of the modern city http://www.HumanGenome.org/ashkelon.mht
Ashkelon and environs in the 1870s High-rise residential development along the city's beach.
The Arab town of al-Majdal (Arabic: المجدل, Hebrew: אל-מג'דל, מגדל; also spelled Majdal and Migdal) was described as a large village in the 16th century. In 1596 it was the 6th largest city in Palestine, with a population of 2,795. By the time of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, it had grown into a substantial town of about 11,000 residents. It was especially famous for its large weaving industry.
Soon after the declaration of the state of Israel, the Egyptian army occupied a large part of the area around Gaza including Majdal. During the next few months, the town was subject to repeated Israeli attacks including air-raids and shelling. All but about 1,000 of the town's residents had fled by the time it was captured by Israeli forces in Operation Yoav on 4 November 1948. General Yigal Allon ordered the expulsion of the remaining Arabs but the local commanders did not do so and the Arab population soon recovered to more than 2,000 due mostly to refugees returning to their homes. During the next year or so, the Arabs were held in a confined area while a secret debate took place about their fate. Some, such as General Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wanted them expelled, while others, such as the left-wing minority party Mapam and the Israeli labor union Histadrut, wanted them to remain. The government decided that the Arabs should leave, but only consensually, which the government might have conceded because of growing international pressure. A carrot and stick campaign was carried out. Positive inducements included favorable currency exchange, and negative inducements included black propaganda and harassment such as night-time raids. According to Sabri Jiryis, on 17 August 1950, the town's inhabitants were served with an expulsion order and the first group of them were taken on trucks to the Gaza Strip where they joined their fellows in the refugee camps there. By October 1950, only 20 Arab families remained, most of whom later moved to Lod or Gaza.
The Israeli national plan of June 1949 designated Majdal as the site for a regional urban center of 20,000 people. Mass repopulation of the vacated Arab houses by Jewish immigrants or demobilised soldiers began in July 1949 and by December the Jewish population had increased to 2,500. During 1949, the town was renamed Migdal Gaza, and then Migdal Gad. Soon afterwards it became Migdal Ashkelon. In 1953 the nearby neighborhood of Afridar was incorporated and the current name Ashkelon was adopted. By 1961 , Ashkelon ranked 18th amongst Israeli urban centers with a population of 24,000. In the same year, Ashkelon Hospital (later renamed after Minister of Health Yisrael Barzilai) was opened.
On 1 2 March 2008, rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip (some of them reportedly Grad rockets) hit Ashkelon, wounding seven, and causing property damage, marking the first time that Hamas had been able to reliably strike Ashkelon. The mayor, Roni Mahatzri has stated that, "This is a state of war, I know no other definition for it. If it lasts a week or two, we can handle that, but we have no intention of allowing this to become part of our daily routine."