Only 60% of Israelis have gas masks

Postal Service says requests have jumped fourfold in recent days

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

A man tries out a gas mask at an Israeli distribution center (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90/File)
A man tries out a gas mask at an Israeli distribution center (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90/File)

As the prospect of a US-led Western military intervention into the Syrian civil war dominated Israeli headlines on Sunday, a new report revealed that, due to budget constraints, some 40 percent of Israeli citizens do not possess government-supplied gas masks to protect them from a potential chemical weapon attack.

The post office said Sunday that requests have jumped fourfold in the last few days, likely the result of the news out of Syria.

Only 60 percent of Israelis currently have gas masks, a Home Front Command official told Channel 2. “We’re not 100% ready, of course,” he reportedly said. “There is no 100% defense… but every person should be equipped.”

In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new $350 million initiative to equip every Israeli with a gas mask. However, official said that the shortfall was due to a “question of budget.”

Despite the lack of gas masks, the official went on to say that Israel is more prepared that ever before for the case of a chemical weapons attack. “We are prepared for any scenario,” he said, adding that Home Front Command forces are “continually learning and training” for such a scenario.

Since the reports of a mass chemical gas attack outside Damascus surfaced last week, debate has raged in the US and Europe about possible military intervention. Israel is said to be preparing for the possibility that, in response to an American attack, Syria might retaliate against targets in Israel. Syria is reported to have an arsenal of at least 100,000 missiles, some of which can target any area in the country.

In Israel, gas masks are distributed via the post office, which maintains an information page (Hebrew). Citizens can order and check availability by calling *2237.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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