With the possibility of war looming, officials in Judea and Samaria are up in arms over the fact that residents of the region are encountering difficulty in obtaining protection kits against chemical weapons attacks.
Over the past few days, Israelis have been crowding distributions centers for gas and chemical defense packages. The packages consist of gas masks and antidotes for chemical attacks.
Distribution centers have seen a major pickup in traffic since reports emerged over the weekend that the U.S. had sent warships to the Mediterranean in preparation for a possible attack on Syria. Centers are located in nearly every city and town in Israel – except for cities and towns in Judea and Samaria, where no kits are being distributed at all. The only distribution points in the region are in Ariel and Efrat, which are geographically inaccessible for many of the region's residents.
Hundreds of residents of far-flung towns in Judea and Samaria have in recent days sought information about where they could get kits, but according to the Samaria Regional Council, Israeli residents of the region must travel to towns within the 1949 armistice lines to obtain the kits – a major trek for many, especially those who don't have cars.
In response the Homefront Security Ministry responded by saying that distribution points were determined by the number of residents the centers would be serving, and the threat level faced by residents.
There are 370,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria (not including areas of Jerusalem liberated in the Six Day War). There are 90,000 Israelis living in Samaria alone, more than the 60,000 in Ra'anana, where there are several distribution points.
In addition to the lack of distribution points, said the Council, residents of the region were being discriminated against in another way: Residents are not eligible for a home delivery service, where for a fee, residents of many cities in Israel can call a phone number and schedule a time for delivery of their kits. Although not all cities in Israel offer this service, the Council said, “it's odd that not one city or town in Judea and Samaria offer it. Because of things like this, many of the residents here just feel like second-class citizens.”
Council head Gershon Mesika called the situation “a scandal. Residents of places like Ra'anana are not forced to travel out of town to get basic government services. Apparently the powers that be still hold the old and mistaken belief that Judea and Samaria is sparsely settled. Things have changed considerably in recent years, and it's high time the state update its information and provide equal services to Judea and Samaria residents, especially services relating to emergencies."