'IDF has gas masks for 60% of public'

Army sources: In emergency, shortfall can be quickly remedied.

May 25, 2010 06:03
2 minute read.
Soldiers wearing gas masks during a drill

gas mask drill 311. (photo credit: AP [file])


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Due to a budget dispute with the Treasury, the IDF has been unable to refurbish 40 percent of the gas masks required to complete the redistribution of the kits to the public, The Jerusalem Post learned on Monday, as the Defense Ministry held the second day of a nationwide civil defense exercise.

Called Turning Point 4, the exercise Monday focused on 40 different local councils, which drilled a number of scenarios – including massive missile attacks – to see how they would function in the event of an all-out regional war.

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The Defense Ministry began collecting the public’s gas mask kits in 2006, and earlier this year began the redistribution process of the refurbished kits. According to senior defense sources, though, the IDF has only been able to refurbish 60% of the kits required to complete the redistribution to the public.

Behind the shortfall is a disagreement between the Defense Ministry and the Treasury over where the funding for the continued refurbishment and distribution of the masks is to come from. The Defense Ministry has asked for a budget supplement, while the Treasury has argued that the money should come from the regular defense budget.

IDF sources stressed, however, that in the event of an emergency such as a war, it would be able to quickly procure and manufacture the additional gas masks required.

On Monday, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, who is in charge of the drill, said it was aimed at preparing the nation for realistic threats.

“The scenarios scare some people, but they were formulated according to the threats that exist,” Vilna’i said. “There is no reason to be concerned if we prepare accordingly.”

OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan downplayed the rise in tensions with Hizbullah and said that Israel did not need to be concerned about the possibility that war might break out due to the exercise.

“There is nothing more calming than an exercise like this,” Golan said. “This is how a mature and serious nation behaves when it faces these types of threats.”

Defense sources said that some 30 foreign military officers and officials were in Israel to watch the drill. The foreigners came from India, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Europe. The foreign guests visited the site of a search-and-rescue drill and heard lectures from top defense officials, including National Emergency Administration head Zeev Zuk-Ram.

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