Israelis continue to queue up for gas masks as Syria strike looms

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis lined up and waited hours at gas mask distribution centers a day after President Obama said he was considering a “limited” military strike on Syria to send a strong message against the use of chemical weapons.

After two days of long queues, the Home Front Command on Thursday decided not to open additional distribution centers, but to extend the hours of the existing ones. Hundreds reportedly were lined up in front of the Haifa and Tel Aviv distribution centers even before their doors were open for business Thursday morning.

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In an interview Wednesday on PBS, Obama said a limited strike should send a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad against the use of chemical weapons.

“If we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, ‘Stop doing this,’ this can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term,” Obama told “PBS Newshour.”

Meanwhile, Russia is deploying a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship to the eastern Mediterranean in advance of a possible military strike, and Britain announced that it is sending six Royal Air Force jets to Cyprus in preparation.

United Nations weapons inspectors now on their third day of investigation in Damascus will complete their investigation at the end of the week and leave the country on Saturday morning. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that President Obama promised him to share information and requested that the investigation team be allowed to complete their work before the onset of a military strike.

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday morning addressed the situation in Syria in public remarks. “The situation in Syria is not a local incident but a crime against humanity and a breach of international law. As such the responsible world is coming together to respond. Syria has crossed a moral boundary,” Peres said.

“Israel was not, and is not, involved in the Syrian fighting but if anyone tries to harm us we will respond with all our might. Israel has a strong army, modern and powerful and a more advanced defense system than ever before which protects our land, our skies and our citizens. The reports aimed at Israel are an attempt to create panic but Israel is too experienced to fall for false propaganda. We must remain united, respect the decisions of the government and act upon the instructions of the Home Front Command. We should all have faith in the IDF,” Peres said.