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Israel to Redistribute Gas Masks Amid Fears of War with Iran

By Robert Berger
02 April 2008

Israel is strengthening security on its home front in a sign of war jitters. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel is casting a wary eye toward Iran.

Israel's security Cabinet has decided to redistribute gas masks to the entire population amid fears of a non-conventional war with Iran. The last distribution was before the U.S. invasion of Iraq four years ago. The gas masks were collected last year because they were out of date.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai initiated the redistribution.

Vilnai told Israel Radio that handing out gas masks does not mean that war with Iran is imminent.

Nevertheless, there is growing concern here about Iran's nuclear program and threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel "off the map."

"We are worried," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Regev says Iran is stalling in negotiations with the international community as it moves closer to building a nuclear bomb.

"We are concerned that the Iranian strategy is very clear," he said. "They want to keep talking and talking and talking, but at the same time to aggressively move forward on their nuclear program."

Iran is seen as an existential threat, and that has raised speculation that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Israeli officials have warned time and again that they will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and that there is a military option.

Iran has ballistic missiles that can hit anywhere in Israel, and it has warned of fierce retaliation in the event of an Israeli attack.

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