Posted at 9:15 a.m. PST Thursday, January 29, 1998 Israel considers mass inoculations JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israelis were taking a hard look today at a mass inoculation against biological warfare, increasingly apprehensive of being drawn into a U.S.-Iraq conflict. Hundreds of children and their parents spent hours in line at gas mask centers throughout the country today, replacing masks, protective bassinets for babies and injection kits of drugs to counteract the effects of nerve gas. Although Israeli leaders said they believed the possibility of an Iraqi attack was remote, they revealed that the Cabinet had discussed the possibility of inoculations against biological weapons. However, there was no move to carry out such a program, which would be costly and could frighten an already edgy public. Dr. Gabi Barabash, director-general of Israel's Health Ministry, said Israel had not decided to inoculate the entire population, but said ``there is an answer'' in the event of a biological attack. ``We are at present sewing up the last logistical stitches which will enable us to be ready for anything,'' he said without elaborating. Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles with conventional warheads at Israel in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but Israel bowed to U.S. pressure to stay out of the fighting. The United States feared Israel's involvement might raise sympathy for Iraq among its Islamic neighbors. Rafael Eitan, Israel's environment minister and retired army chief of staff, said that Israel might act differently now. Refraining from responding ``caused us a great deal of damage, psychologically, and it also damaged our deterrent capability,'' he said on Israel radio. ``This time, we have learned our lesson well.'' Asked whether he thought Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would attack Israel if he were attacked by the United States, Eitan said it was ``impossible to predict what he might do. We have to address what he is capable of doing, not what he will do.'' Yitzhak Shamir, who was prime minister during the 1991 war, said Israel shouldn't keep quiet if it comes under attack again. ``If we are hit, we have to retaliate,'' Shamir told Israel's army radio. If war breaks out, he added, the Americans should kill Saddam, calling it a ``mistake'' that he had remained in power. ``We warned them then, and we see that we were right,'' he said. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler alarmed many people here this week with a comment to The New York Times that Iraq had the potential to ``blow away Tel Aviv.'' ``If it looks like it will get worse, we'll just leave,'' said Shimon Alterman, who works at a cigarette stand in Tel Aviv. ``I'm not going through the Gulf War again.'' Several Israeli officials, however, noted that today's situation was different, particularly since Saddam has not directly threatened Israel. ``There is every reason to believe that Israel will not be involved in any way, shape or form,'' said government spokesman Moshe Fogel. David Bar-Illan, a top adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Netanyahu would discuss the situation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she arrived in Israel on Saturday night. [INLINE] [INLINE] Return to top[ISMAP]-This image allows you to access site resources 1997 - 1998 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.
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