As Obama talks Syria strike, Israelis queue up for gas masks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis waited for hours at gas mask distribution centers a day after President Obama said he was considering a “limited” military strike on Syria.

Hundreds of Israelis reportedly lined up at the Haifa and Tel Aviv centers before they opened Thursday morning. After two days of long queues, the Home Front Command on Thursday decided not to open additional distribution centers but to extend the hours of the existing ones.

In an interview Wednesday on PBS, Obama said a limited strike should send a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad against the use of chemical weapons.

“If we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying stop doing this, this can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term,” Obama told “PBS Newshour.”

Meanwhile, Russia is deploying a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship to the eastern Mediterranean in advance of a possible military strike, and Britain announced it was sending six Royal Air Force jets to Cyprus in preparation.

United Nations weapons inspectors in their third day in Damascus will complete their investigation at the end of the week and leave the country on Saturday morning. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he would share the information with U.N. Security Council members, which includes the United States, and requested that the investigation team be allowed to complete its work before any military strike.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, addressing the Syria situation in public remarks, said Thursday, it was “not a local incident but a crime against humanity and a breach of international law. As such the responsible world is coming together to respond. Syria has crossed a moral boundary.

“Israel was not, and is not, involved in the Syrian fighting,” he said, “but if anyone tries to harm us, we will respond with all our might.”

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