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Israel Set to Distribute Gas Masks As Experiment

The defense establishment, concerned over the development of gas and chemical warfare weapons in Arab countries, is preparing to distribute gas masks to the public in selected areas on an experimental basis.

The experiment will start in December with residents of Shlomi in the north and Ramat Hasharon near Tel Aviv.

Brig. Gen. Aharon Vardi, chief of civil defense, told reporters it would take four days to distribute gas masks to Israel’s entire population of 4.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry is considering for the first time allowing a commercial manufacturer of gas masks and other anti-chemical equipment to retail its products in Israel.

The Shaalon Co. produces gas masks, safety devices for infants and medical syringes. It exports and sells them to the army, but until now has never sold directly to the Israeli public.

An experimental distribution of gas masks nine years ago was a failure. More than 90 percent of the equipment was found to have been used incorrectly or damaged.

Military sources here refused to confirm or deny Wednesday that Israel had advance knowledge of a large chemical weapons plant under construction in Libya.

The report was disclosed Wednesday by William Webster, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Webster described the Libyan plant as “the largest chemical plant that I know of for chemical warfare.”

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