Gas mask distribution is coming to an end

Jerusalem Post  March 19, 2012
By Yaakove Katz

By the end of the month, just over 4 million Israelis will have received their masks, leaving 40 percent without.

Despite concern that Israel could come under a chemical attack due to the  growing instability in Syria, the IDF Home Front Command will suspend  distribution of gas masks at the end of the month due to a government refusal to  allocate funds necessary to continue their production.

By the end of  March, a little over 4 million Israelis will have received new gas masks under  the IDF’s distribution program, which began in 2006 with the collection of the  public’s old gas masks. The remaining 40 percent of Israel’s population will not  have masks.

Behind the shortage is a disagreement between the Defense  Ministry and the Treasury over where the funding for the continued refurbishment  and distribution of the masks will come from. The Defense Ministry has asked for  a budget supplement, while the Treasury has argued that the money should come  from the regular defense budget.

“Nothing has changed, even though there  will not be any gas masks left by the end of the month,” a senior defense  official said on Monday. “Once the production line closes it will also take time  to restart it.”

News of the lack of gas masks comes as the IDF is  increasingly concerned with the possibility that Syria’s extensive arsenal of  chemical weapons will fall into rogue terrorist hands. It is also concerned with  the possibility that President Bashar Assad will be tempted to attack Israel if  he feels that his regime’s demise is imminent.

In January, the IDF held a  civil-defense exercise to prepare the Home Front Command for a biological and  chemical attack against Israel, as well as the first-ever drill simulating a  radioactive dirty bomb attack against the country.

Distribution of gas  masks is overseen by the Home Front Command but is carried out by the Israel  Postal Company, which comes to people’s homes and delivers the kits. The IDF has  recorded a sharp climb in the number of Israelis contacting the company in  recent weeks up to nearly 200,000.

One of the catalysts is believed to be  the recent media reports on a possible Israeli attacks against Iran, as well as  a new campaign by the Home Front Command to get residents of Tel Aviv and Haifa – two cities believed to likely be the most threatened in a future war – to  collect their masks.

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