Last week, IDF Planning Directorate Chief Major-General Amir Eshel alluded that Syria's biological and chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah if President Bashar Assad's regime collapses, raising concerns over Israel's preparedness for a possible unconventional attack.
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IDF data shows that it has only 400,000 kits left, which are expected to be distributed within the next three months on a "first come, first serve" basis. While the government has commissioned the production of 120,000 additional gas mask kits, the measure was meant to make sure that the factories remain functional; these kits are not to be distributed.
Tel Aviv distribution center (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Once the last kits are distributed, 55% of Israeli citizens – 4.2 million people – will be in possession of a gas mask. The other 45%, as well as tens of thousands of refugees and migrant workers, will remain unprotected should an unconventional attack target Israel.
No budget for kits
Producing enough kits to cover the rest of the population would cost NIS 1.2 billion (roughly $318 million).
"The distribution will stop because we don't have the budget," a senior Home Front Command official said. "But even if the funds turn up, it would take two years to manufacture the rest of the kits."
The data shows that in the area that is most vulnerable to an attack, stretching from Haifa to Ashdod, 38% of the citizens don't have gas masks. In cities that are less exposed, like Jerusalem and Eilat, distribution centers never opened. As result, only 15% of residents in the capital have a gas mask. Some 52% of Tel Aviv residents are in possession of the protective equipment.
November and December 2011 saw a sharp spike in citizens arriving at post offices to receive their free kits, just after the United Nations nuclear watchdog released a report claiming that Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons.
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