Newsletter : 8fax0204.txt
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>JN Feb. 4, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 21
Israeli Leaders Address Saddam Threat
By Mark Lavie (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli officials have reassured their people that the country is
well-equipped to deal with a potential chemical or biological
weapons attack from Iraq. But many Israelis are still concerned.
The government changed its policy and began explaining the various
aspects of the Iraq crisis to its people Tuesday. Up to now, the
Israeli leadership has kept a low profile on the matter, following
advice by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to keep its
rhetoric about Iraq under control to avoid inflaming the situation
But nervous Israelis clamored for official information as thousands
lined up at government distribution points to wait hours to
exchange their old gas masks for new ones. The gas masks were
first distributed before the 1991 Gulf war.
When Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel
the government ordered Israelis to put on their gas masks and
retreat into rooms sealed off by nylon sheets and plastic tape.
None of the Iraqi missiles had chemical or biological warheads,
but Israelis are still traumatized by the experience.
At a news conference in Tel Aviv, military officers and health
officials explained to the public that there is only a small
possibility that Iraq will attack again -- and if it does, Israel
Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, the Israeli army chief of staff, played down
the threat, but warned that Iraq is still dangerous. "We think that
the Iraqis are still hiding something. Certainly they did not train
with the weapons over the past few years, but Iraq is a big
country, and they apparently succeeded in hiding a few things."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to calm a
jittery public that has packed gas mask distribution centers, said
Tuesday there was scant chance of an Iraqi missile attack on
Israel. The government, accused in the media of keeping Israelis in
the dark about the level of threat in the crisis with Iraq.
Israel's government is allocating $70 million to buy extra gas
masks and antibiotics as answers to chemical and biological weapons
strikes. It remains to be seen whether the new policy will succeed
to calm the people. Some say the damage is already done. Gen. Yoel
Feldsho (Res) was chief of Israeli air force intelligence during
the 1991 Gulf war. He says Hussein has done nothing wrong. "It is
us," complained the retired general. "We are whipping up an almost
psychotic frenzy over absolutely nothing."
Feldsho explained that Hussein has no interest in attacking Israel.
The former intelligence chief pointed out that the atmosphere is
causing economic damage. He said tourists are beginning to cancel
trips to Israel and he does not blame them, when they see pictures
of panicked Israelis pounding on the doors of gas-mask distribution
And one more example of how far this has gone -- residents of the
Israeli resort of Eilat, at the southern tip of the country,
complained that there are no gas mask stations in their city. They
have to drive more than 125 miles north to exchange their masks.
Considering the type of missiles Iraq might have -- if there are
any left -- the residents of Eilat would have to drive about 125
miles north, just to get into range.
Rabin Memorial at City Hall in Jerusalem is Vandalized
By IINS News Service
According to police reports, members of the outlawed right-wing
Kach Party took credit for Monday night's desecration of a memorial
for Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, located at Safra Square in the
Jerusalem City Hall complex. "Rabin murderer" and "Rabin traitor"
were painted on the memorial site.
Police report that the "right-wing extremists" claimed credit for
the vandalism, stating it was in retaliation for government plans
to destroy the gravesite promenade of the late Dr. Baruch
Goldstein, who killed 29 Moslem worshipers in the Maarat
Hamachpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron in 1994. Members of
the "Dor Shalom" ("Generation of Peace") organization came to the
site of the defaced monument and lighted memorial candles.
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