IDF to Northern Residents: Sealed Rooms, Not Gas Masks, Best Defense During Chemical Attack

Recommendation comes after army mulls scenario of attacks on north with non-typical substances such as chlorine.

Israelis receive gas-mask kits at a distribution point in Tel Aviv, on August 28, 2013.
Nir Elias/Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command intends to instruct residents near the country's northern border to go into sealed rooms in the event of a chemical attack in their area, but they would not be called upon to wear gas masks.

This decision was made recently after the IDF investigated the possible effects of the use of substances, such as chlorine, that are not considered to be typical chemical weapons, according to the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

IDF officials believed that despite Syria’s agreement to give up its chemical weapons stockpile a few years ago, it was possible that use would be made of such weapons near the northern border. The Home Front Command set up gas-mask distribution centers for residents, as a means for preparing for various scenarios in which substances not addressed by the international convention – that is, not classic agents such as mustard gas and sarin, but rather substances such as chlorine – would be used against civilian or military targets.

In 2014, the security cabinet decided to halt distribution of gas-mask kits, and defense officials have maintained production facilities on a limited basis, producing the kits only for emergency rescue units.

According to IDF data, 65 percent of Israelis will be left with properly functioning gas masks by 2022. In 2023, thousands of others will join the ranks of those without working masks because they must be replaced every 25 years.