Get ready to give back your gas masks

The Defense Ministry published a tender for the collection, renewal of the 6.8 million masks.

Get ready to say goodbye to your gas mask. The Defense Ministry on Monday published a tender for the collection and renewal of the 6.8 million gas masks currently collecting dust in homes across the country. The MOD issued a tender to collect the gas masks - distributed in 2003 in the run-up to the US war in Iraq - in the summer of 2004, but it was not followed through as a result of disagreements with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee over the need to collect the masks. The Knesset committee recently pulled its opposition to the collection process and the MOD decided to immediately publish a tender - valued at tens of millions of shekels. The collection process, said deputy head of MOD Procurement and Production Itzik Bloch, could take up to two years, during which some of the masks would be renewed while others would be discarded. The decision on whether the masks would be returned, he explained, strictly depended on security assessments and whether Israel was under a threat by chemical warfare. "The masks that people currently have are almost useless and cannot be considered protection," Bloch said. "We want to collect them from the citizens, fix them up and then if necessary give them back to the public." An IDF source backed Bloch by saying that following the regime change in Iraq, Israelis no longer needed the masks at the ready. "At the moment, there is no threat that requires the public to have gas masks," the source said. But what about Iran? "If needed," the source continued, "we will distribute the masks once again."