Israel has decided to halt the distribution of gas masks at the end of February, in the wake of an official assessment that the threat of a chemical attack has significantly diminished, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
After February, the government will continue limited production of protection kits for search-and-rescue forces and will decide on future distribution based on a defense-establishment assessment at the end of the year.
Defense officials first recommended the move in November 2012.
“This is an informed decision made responsibly and thoughtfully, taking into account the change in threats in the Middle East and the strengths and abilities of the State of Israel,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a statement posted to Facebook after the decision.
Over the summer, Israelis flooded gas-mask distribution centers, fearing what seemed to be an imminent US attack on Syria, which in turn was expected by many to trigger retaliation against Israel.
However, the US backed off its threats in September, after a last-minute deal, brokered by Russia, saw Syrian President Bashar Assad agree to dismantle his chemical weapons program and to have all deadly chemical agents shipped out of the country by mid-2014.
Despite Home Front Command efforts, there were reports of severe shortages. In late August, it was estimated that some 40 percent of Israelis did not have masks.