Israelis are rushing to equip themselves and their families with gas masks, amid an escalation in the Syrian crisis and the widely suspected use of chemical weapons by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Syria has one of the world’s largest chemical-weapons arsenals, containing roughly 1,000 tons of nerve agents.
The Israel Postal Company, which provides the masks through a call-in service, has registered a fourfold rise in gas masks requests nationwide.
Sixty-two percent of Tel Aviv residents are already equipped with the masks, compared to three-quarters in Israel’s northernmost city Kiryat Shmona.
In Jerusalem the number is just 30 percent. In the capital’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, a member of the Sanz Hasidic community picked up nine gas masks for his large family.
He told the Hebrew edition of Yedioth Ahronoth that while he “pray[s] to God to protect the Nation of Israel,” he believes that “to pray without taking a mask is like buying a lottery ticket without buying a ticket.”
All told, the Israel Postal Service has thus far distributed at least 4.8 million gas masks, accounting for six in ten Israelis.
Gas masks were first distributed and used widely in Israel when the Saddam Hussein fired SCUD missiles at Tel Aviv during the First Gulf War. The Iraqi dictator had deployed chemical weapons against his own country’s Kurds three years earlier. He limited his attacks on the Jewish state to conventional weapons.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Wiki Commons]