As Syria strike looms, Israeli gas mask centers get extended opening hours

Decision taken in light of massive demand for protective kits as US, allies appear to gear up for attack on Assad regime.

Gas masks Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Gas masks Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Reuters)

The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command has extended the opening hours for gas mask distribution centers to cope with the massive demand of recent days, Army Radio reported Thursday.

Anxious Israelis have flooded the centers, anticipating an attack on Israel in response to any strike by the US and its allies on Syria over the regime’s probable use of chemical weapons.

The centers, based in Israel Postal Service offices, will now be open each day from 8 A.M. until 7 P.M., but the number of centers will not increase, the radio said.

General Gaby Ofir (res.), former director-general of the Home Front Defense Ministry, told Army Radio that, “the number of gas masks in Israel today is not sufficient.” Nonetheless, he added, “the kits are just a small link in the chain of preparedness of the State of Israel.”

The demand for the masks has created unruly scenes at some distribution centers, including dispensary at the Hadar mall in Talpiot, Jerusalem, which was forced to shut six hours early after a near riot by the waiting crowd.

Meanwhile, the IDF has announced that non-Israelis must purchase gas mask kits, as they are free only to citizens of the state.

"The gas mask distribution plan is meant for citizens of the State of Israel and during time of emergency a situation assessment will be made about whether or not to supply gas masks to people who are residing in Israel and are not citizens,” said the IDF Spokesman on Wednesday.