Israel is to outfit its entire population with gas masks. The distribution will commence in two months.
No reason has been given by the Israeli government for providing its residents with gas masks.
There has been no indication from any country that it is planning to attack Israel, nor is any country in the Middle East likely to engage Israel in chemical warfare.
The move has heightened expectations that Israel may launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities which could spark an unconventional response. It is not known however whether Iran has any chemical or biological weapons capability.
Rumors have been circulating in the Middle East that Israel is preparing for another war on Lebanon to rein in Hezbollah. That organization however is not known to harbor chemical or biological weapons.
The only country in the region suspected of having a major chemical and biological weapons program is Israel itself, however it is very unlikely Israel would launch such an unconventional attack.
Nonetheless in February Israel will roll out gas masks to every resident in the country.
The distribution will be managed by the Israel Defense Forces which have engaged the Israel Postal Company. In past distributions the Home Front Command has engineered the delivery, so the change to Israel Post comes as a surpsie.
Israeli residents will be able to collect the new gas masks in one of two ways. The first option will be to go to a branch of the Israel Postal Company, and to receive the new gas mask for free.
The second option will be to pay 25 shekels per family and have a representative from the Israel Postal Company call to residents' homes. The representative will try the gas masks on each family member, and will provide appropriately fitting gas masks for each person who lives in the household.
Col. Yosi Sagiv, head of the Gas Mask Administration of the Home Front Command, says when a civilian receives a gas mask delivered to his house, "it is not a package that is simply delivered." The Israeli Postal Company representative will make sure the gas mask fits properly, he said.
Children up to 8 years of age will be receiving a new gas mask, dubbed the Mamtek (Hebrew for "Candy"), which is being distributed for the first time.
"We are the only country in the world that produces gas masks for children, and the children's gas mask we produce is the only one in the world that supplies prime defense for this age group," Col. Sagiv said. "All that is left is to hope that it will not be necessary to experience first hand how well these gas masks work," he said.