Israel upgrades war readiness
The Jerusalem Post

March 19, 2003

IDF soldiers were ordered today to carry around gas masks as Israel upgraded its preparedness for a US war on Iraq which is expected to erupt by Thursday morning.

In addition, some 11,000 reservists from anti-aircraft and Home Front Command have been called for duty.

However, the general public was told not to open up chemical warfare protection kits, pending further notification.

The instructions followed an emergency cabinet meeting this morning, at which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wished the US good luck, while stressing that Israel is not involved in the war.

Sharon assessed there is only a one percent chance of Israel being attacked by Iraq during the conflict, but added that Israel needs to be completely ready for any evenutality.

Defense experts believe the most threatening time for Israel would be the first two days of the war, before the US forces destroy any missile launchers that have been deployed in western Iraq.

"Although the danger of us being attacked is only one percent, we have taken steps that give us 100 percent coverage," in the event of an attack, Sharon told ministers, in remarks broadcast over Israel Radio.

He urged the Israeli public to remain calm and continue showing its characteristic courageousness.

Civilians were urged on Tuesday to prepare a sealed room to protect against the possibility of facing a chemical or biological attack.

However, schools are scheduled to reopen tomorrow after the Purim holiday. School authorities are also preparing sealed rooms or applying plastic sheeting to the openings of shelters to make sure they can protect against chemical warfare.

After wishing the US good luck in its fight against Iraq, Sharon added:

"This isn't a war that we are involved in."

Israel, however, "views this war with ultimate regard. We are in awe of the United States and President George Bush who are conducting an international campaign against terrorism," Sharon said.