As strike on Syria looms, Israelis scramble for gas masks

Citizens fear chemical retaliation in light of assessments US preparing to attack the Assad regime

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The recent tension along the northern border has caused a spike in demand for gas masks. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The recent tension along the northern border has caused a spike in demand for gas masks. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Requests for gas masks among Israelis saw a major increase on Sunday and Monday, reflecting growing concern among the country’s citizens of a possible Syrian chemical attack following assessments that the US will soon launch a military assault on the war-torn country.

Israeli post offices, which serve as distribution points for gas masks, reported receiving 300 percent more phone calls on Sunday and Monday than on an average day from people who wished to acquire protection kits. More than twice as many people than average approached the distribution points themselves.

Haim Mazaki, a senior manager at the Israel Postal Company, told Channel 10 News that the increased demand also caused the operating system in one of the service centers to crash.

According to numbers released by the government, only 60% of Israelis currently possess gas masks.

Britain on Monday reportedly pushed for US action on Syria in the wake of a horrific alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians outside Damascus. According to a report from the Times of London, British Prime Minister David Cameron wants a strike in the coming days, while outrage over the alleged attack is still fresh. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an interview with the BBC on Monday that action could be taken even without the full support of the UN Security Council.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday stated unequivocally that Washington believes Syrian President Bashar Assad was behind the attack and attempted to cover up evidence to that effect in its aftermath.

Israeli military officials have indicated they believe it’s unlikely that Syria would target Israel if the US or others intervened, but Israel has reportedly been taking security precautions.

Syrian and Iranian officials delivered an explicit warning to Israel Monday, saying in no uncertain terms that the Jewish state would be attacked in the event of a Western-led strike on Syria.

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