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Gas Mask Distribution to Begin, but Israel Stresses No Emergency

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Israel has advanced the timetable for the distribution of gas masks to the civilian population, but has stressed at the same time that there is no emergency.

An Israel Defense Force spokesman announced Monday that the phased distribution of masks and poison gas antidote kits would begin shortly and should be completed in about two months.

He said the public will be notified on or about Oct. 15 where the masks will be available, and distribution will begin about a week later.

“Next week, the personal kits will be distributed in three towns. Following that, the distribution will encompass other areas,” the IDF said.

The distribution process has already been tested in the northern town of Shlomi and in the Morasha neighborhood of Ramat Hasharon, the IDF disclosed, adding that further distribution “will take place in phases and over an extended period of time.”

“The distribution of gas masks in no way whatsoever constitutes a change to an emergency status,” the statement explained. “The purpose of this action is to transfer the kits to the citizens’ homes in order to shorten the time of distribution, should a need arise.”

The IDF maintained its action conforms to earlier Cabinet decisions on the issue. The mass distribution of gas masks was originally set to begin only at the end of the year, and the authorities seemed to Israelis to be unnecessarily slow in responding to the people’s concerns.

A CHARGE FOR ARABS IN TERRITORIES

According to some sources, the decision to start distribution now means that Israel has acquired sufficient gas masks for its entire civilian population, including Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Arabs in the territories will, however, be charged for the masks. The IDF explained that the Jewish population has already paid for them in the form of taxes.

That does not apply to Palestinians in East Jerusalem who, while not Israeli citizens, live in territory now legally part of Israel.

They will get their masks at the same time as the Jewish population in western Jerusalem, the IDF said.

The masks will be distributed in sealed boxes, which may not be opened until proper instructions are given, or special warnings, such as air raid sirens are sounded.

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