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Israel distributes new gas masks to civilians: army

world Updated: Feb 28, 2010 13:01 IST

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Israel on Sunday began distributing new gas masks for civilians to use in a possible chemical or biological attack, the army said.

"The civil defence has asked the Israeli postal service to begin distributing gas masks on an experimental basis to the residents of Or Yehuda," a military spokesman told AFP, referring to an area near Tel Aviv.

"Gradually, based on the lessons learned in this operation and in accordance with the Israeli government's decision, the distribution will be extended to the entire population," he added.

The government decided on January 5 to distribute some eight million new gas masks, one for each Israeli, by 2013.

Israel has long feared that chemical or biological weapons may be used against it in a future conflict involving Iran or Syria, but officials have insisted the distribution of the masks is not linked to any imminent threat.

The Jewish state has carried out several large-scale defence exercises in recent years, and last week carried out a military-wide drill responding to a hypothetical attack from Lebanon or Syria.

In October Israel and the United States carried out their largest-ever air drill simulating the response to missile attacks.

Israel came under sustained attack during its 2006 war with Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, when more than 4,000 Katyusha rockets were launched at northern Israel in 34 days, sending hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing south.