Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gas mask handout delayed to late 2009


I’m sure Syria will absolutely respect the problem the Israeli government is having with the budget and delay any chemical strike on Israel until the gas masks have been distributed.

Oct 16, 2008 0:38 | Updated Oct 16, 2008 0:50

Due to budget disputes with the Treasury, the Defense Ministry has been forced to postpone the distribution of gas masks to the public by at least six months to late 2009, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Last year, the Defense Ministry finished collecting gas masks from the public and in the past few weeks completed refurbishing a majority of the kits. The initial plan, a senior defense official said Wednesday, was to return the masks to the public in January.

"Most of the masks are refurbished and they are sitting and waiting to be returned to the public," the official said. "We initially wanted to return the masks in January but the Treasury did not release the funds and we are still waiting for the budget to be able to hire a civilian company to distribute them."

The gas masks are an essential component of the public's "protective envelope" in the event of a chemical attack, according to the official. When in the hands of the public, the masks also play a role in deterring enemies from using such weapons.

"When an enemy knows that the number of casualties will not be so high since the public has masks it needs to think very hard whether it is in its best interest to use chemical weapons," the official said.

Syria is believed to have a large stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. According to the Global Security Web site, the Syrian arsenal is comprised mostly of large amounts of the Sarin nerve agent and mustard gas and is reportedly producing and weaponizing the VX nerve agent. The US, the site says, has estimated that Syria has several hundred liters of chemical weapons, with hundreds of tons of agents produced annually.

In related news, the IDF Home Front Command will hold its first ever course next week to train officers to serve as liaisons to regional and local authorities in the event of a war. The new position - called yaklar in Hebrew - was set up following the Second Lebanon War. The officers' job will be to assist mayors and council heads in running their communities in time of war and during missile onslaughts.

The decision to appoint liaisons to regional councils was made in line with the establishment last year of the National Emergency Administration by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i that oversees the management of the home front in wartime.

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