Children trying on gas masks at a junior high school in Holon.
Children trying on gas masks at a junior high school in Holon. Photo by Uriel Sinai
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The chances are low that Israel's enemies will use unconventional weapons against it, Home Front Command's chief of staff has told Haaretz.

Meanwhile, there has been no change in Home Front Command's preparedness due to the turmoil in Syria, said the command's chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Zvi Tessler. Tessler works under the command's head, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg.

Israel is worried that advanced weaponry, including chemical weapons, could be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah or other hostile forces. "We are closely following events in Syria," Tessler said.

As Haaretz reported last month, only 53 percent of Israelis have gas masks. The government has not set a final target date for handing out gas masks, but the issue will be resolved in the discussions on funding the program, Tessler said.

The initial target was to have 4.5 million gas masks distributed by next year, but this goal would probably be met this year, Tessler said.

With the threat of an attack on Iran's nuclear installations and the uncertainty about Syria's chemical weapons, civil defense planners are also concerned about possible missile attacks against civilian targets in a future war.

Still, only 30 percent of Israelis have a reinforced room in their homes and a quarter have no such shelter either at home or nearby. Home Front Command says Israelis lacking a protected space against chemical or biological weapons should head for the most secure space in their homes and seal it on their own.

"People need to know that they don't have protection, and the solution is the sealed room and the mask," Tessler said. "There are those who view brown adhesive tape cynically, but it saves lives. In many cases, it's the difference between life and death.

Several months ago, the Israel Defense Forces' planning division projected that the number of missiles falling on Israel would be 10 times higher than the number during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The IDF said several hundred civilians would be killed, and thousands of houses and apartments would be made uninhabitable.

200,000 missiles

Eisenberg has said that at any given moment 200,000 missiles are aimed at Israel.

According to Col. Efi Mishov, the head of Home Front Command's population department, a quarter to a third of local authorities are not well prepared for an emergency. He said local governments in Arab-Israeli communities were particularly unprepared. In general, preparedness is worse in poor locales.

Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Home Front Command.

An important segment of the home front's warning system is provided by an American radar system stationed in the Negev. It does well warning against missiles coming from distances of up to 2,000 kilometers, such as the distance from Iran.

In another two months, thousands of American troops will arrive here for joint military exercises known as Austere Challenge 12, when missile attacks will be simulated.

"You see what Syria is undergoing and what has happened with Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran," Tessler said, noting that Israel's enemies have increased the number and range of their missiles. And their missiles have become more accurate and are carrying larger payloads, he said.