Israel begins distribution of gas masks

Israel began its distribution of new gas masks to civilians on Sunday, which are meant to protect the nation in the event of a biological or chemical attack.

"The civil defense has asked the Israeli postal service to begin distributing gas masks on an experimental basis to the residents of Or Yehuda," a military spokesman told Agence France Presse. Or Yehuda is an area that is located near Tel Aviv.

"Gradually, based on the lessons learned in this operation and in accordance with the Israeli government's decision, the distribution will be extended to the entire population," the spokesman said.

Approximately eight million gas masks will be distributed - one per person in Israeli - by 2013 following a government decision from January 5.

The gas masks come as part of Israel's longstanding fear that biological or chemical weapons could be used in future conflicts involving either Iran or Syria. Officials, however, have insisted that the masks' distribution is not indicative of any imminent threat.

Despite the statement that there is no known threats, the mask distribution follows closely on the heels of several large-scale defense exercises, including a military-wide drill to respond to a hypothetical Lebanon or Syria attack held last week.

Additionally, Israel and the United States carried out their largest-ever air drill meant to simulate the response to missile attacks in October.