Fear of possible backlash from a Western strike on Syria has driven up demand for gas masks in Israel to such an extent that a black market has emerged for the protective gear.
On eBay, the asking prices for the gas masks, some of which are old models, range from $25 to $50, and go as high as $100 to $165 for a family set of four masks, Israeli business website Globes reported Wednesday.
Other Israeli media reports stated that Israelis in possession of surplus masks were selling them for around $50 dollars. According to Israel’s Channel 1o news, trade in the country’s security equipment is illegal.
Over the past week, as the possibility of a military confrontation between Western countries and Syria, in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, appeared more likely, Israelis have flocked to distribution centers for gas-mask-kit hand outs. In some areas demand was much higher than expected, leading the Municipality of Haifa to move the distribution point from the postal center in the city to the Municipal Stadium. In Sharon, a mob overpowered administrators, with people grabbing masks, and running.
According to reports, 40% of Israel’s population has been left without access to gas masks. Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, pointed to budget cuts due to lower tax revenues from the weak economy last year as the reason why the gas mask supply has gone underfunded.