IDF Home Front Commander Gen. Ya'ir Golan has announced that towards the end of this year, gas masks will once again be distributed to Israel’s populace. No specific threat is foreseen, he said.

In addition, during the first week of June, the Home Front Command and the Defense Ministry will conduct the largest-ever nationwide drill, codenamed Turning Point 3. At its height, on Tuesday, 11 AM, a siren will sound throughout the country, and citizens will be expected to enter protected areas for several minutes.

“The central point of this exercise,” explained Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, “is the need to share with the public the data we have. The more the public is prepared, the better things will be if there is a real emergency.”

Gen. Golan said that for the first time, cities and towns will be divided into smaller areas, each with its own staff of leaders and volunteers. During the drill, all schoolchildren will be led to shelters and protected expanses, where they will see films on measures to take during an emergency.

Gas Mask Distribution

The distribution of gas masks is expected to start in November or December, and could take up to two years. Gas mask kits were originally distributed around the time of the 1991 Gulf War, during which period citizens commonly walked around with them to work, school and play. Most of the kits were collected around two years ago after being deemed useless in the face of the new threats.

The Home Front Command recently launched a public campaign centering on a new map showing how nearly every Israeli is under potential threat. The nationwide drill will mark the end of the campaign, which will also include TV and radio spots, magnetic maps for home refrigerators and information on the Command's website.

The map divides Israel into 27 districts, differentiated by the amount of time residents will have to find shelter after a warning siren signaling a Hizbullah missile sounds. While the northernmost areas like Kiryat Shmona or the Golan Heights must find shelter immediately, those living in the Tel Aviv area have a full two minutes, and residents of Jerusalem and the south have three minutes before missiles can be expected to crash. In addition, four regions have been delineated around Gaza. Residents closest to Gaza, such as Sderot, have 15 seconds to enter the shelters, whereas those of Be’er Sheva have 60 seconds.