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Israeli Government to Distribute Radiation Sickness Pills

By MARK LAVIE, Associated Press Writer
July 22, 2004

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - Soldiers will begin distributing radiation sickness pills in cities near Israel's two nuclear reactors next month, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz informed the Cabinet of the project at a session on Sunday, the ministry said.

Distribution of the pills is to begin Aug. 8 in Dimona and Yavne, according to a report in Bamahane, a weekly publication for soldiers.

The pills are an iodine compound that blocks absorption of radioactive material by shutting down the thyroid gland. Bamahane reported that Israel has had the pills for decades, but decided to distribute them now to cut down on reaction time in case of a nuclear accident or attack.

The Maariv daily quoted unnamed security sources as saying that the decision does not indicate a change in the level of risk of a radiation incident.

In June, Israel announced it would collect the gas masks handed out to civilians over the past decade as protection against a possible chemical or biological attack from Iraq. The military said it decided to collect the masks because the threat from Iraq had been reduced after Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

In 1991, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles with conventional warheads at Israel.

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