JERUSALEM — At the sound of a siren and the boom of a tape recording of artillery fire, hundreds of Israeli schoolchildren pulled tight the straps of their gas masks Tuesday in a simulation of a chemical weapons attack.
It was the first such exercise in an Israeli school and part of a recent series of measures taken by the army to prepare civilians for possible chemical warfare.
The army has become more concerned that Arab countries will wage chemical warfare against Israel since such weapons have been used in the Iran-Iraq War and Syria has acquired ground-to-ground missiles capable of delivering chemical warheads inside Israel.
"There is a growing threat of chemical warfare, mainly from Syria," Lt. Col. Mordechai, civil defense coordinator for Israeli schools, said during the half-hour simulation at Jerusalem Traditional Middle and High School. In keeping with army regulations, the officer would not be quoted by full name.
The 370 students, ages 12 to 18, assembled in the schoolyard, each carrying a black gas mask. At the sound of a siren, they pulled the masks over their heads within seconds, tightened the straps and hurried to their classrooms as a loudspeaker played taped battle sounds.