Israel must provide gas masks for Palestinians living in the West Bank, a Palestinian Authority official said Tuesday.
“If there is a war in the region, the responsibility [for preparing the West Bank population] falls upon Israel because it is the occupying authority,” PA security services spokesman Adnan al-Dumayri told AFP.
“Israel must provide to all citizens living under its occupation the necessary security equipment, be that gas masks or other items, especially if Israel gets into a war we have no connection with.
“We are living under occupation, we have no sovereignty over our borders, and we can’t import gas masks,” Dumayri said.
Israelis have been scrambling for the last two weeks to acquire government-supplied gas masks following signs that the US plans to attack Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack carried out by the Assad regime.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) and an NGO called The Front for the Public Defense petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday to force the government to “to provide all of Israel’s citizens and residents, equally and without discrimination, protective equipment against chemical weapons,” according to the Israeli news outlet Globes.
“The State of Israel faces permanent existential threats,” the petition states. “One of them is the threat of chemical attack. The issue of equipping the entire public with gas masks repeatedly comes up in public dialogue and in government decisions.
“Today, in view of the delicate security situation, the executive’s helplessness in dealing with the issue, its lack of direction, gross discrimination against broad segments of the population, and extreme unreasonable conduct are again demonstrated.”
The petition noted that the government has admitted up to 40 percent of the population do not have gas masks, and that the IDF Home Front Command does not have enough gas masks to supply everyone.
In a 1991 decision on a similar case, the high court ruled that the government must provide gas masks to all citizens and residents of Israel and the territories.
Committees within the US Congress continued to debate granting President Barack Obama authorization to use military force in Syria on Wednesday, with a vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee anticipated.
Obama, who has already made the decision to use force in Syria, has won the support of several key Republican Congressional leaders, but in a vote, he would still have to contend with significant opposition both from Republicans and from within his own party.