JERUSALEM — One day before the United Nations Nov. 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, Israeli officials have decided to issue gas masks to some of the Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Last October, Israel began issuing gas masks to more than 4 million Israelis after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened chemical weapons attack. But the government refused to issue masks to Palestinians, claiming they did not face as much risk in an Iraqi attack.
Palestinians were to start receiving gas masks Jan. 15, following an order by the Israeli Supreme Court.
One justice accused the Army of ``patent discrimination'' for issuing gas masks to Jewish settlers but not to Palestinians.
The Defense Ministry said it would obey the court but added that it had masks for just 10 percent of the territories' 1.75 million Palestinians and did not know how long it would need to obtain enough for the entire population.
The Army has handed out gas masks to most of Israel's 4.7 million people. It did not originally plan to distribute them in the West Bank and Gaza, arguing that Saddam was unlikely to aim missiles at occupied territories he has vowed to liberate. The Army had decided over last weekend to provide them to the 90,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied lands.