Citizens of the Israeli city Tel Aviv say they smelled something like chlorine all over the city today. While weird smells are part and parcel of urban life, in this case, conflicting reports from the Israeli military, and a decided skittishness on the part of Israeli officials to talk about the subject at all, indicate that something more might be at the root of the olfactory weirdness.
YNet News, however, has one particularly alarming explanation for what might have happened:
Earlier Thursday, Ramat HaSharon Mayor Itzik Rochberger claimed the IDF's Home Front Command informed him of the odor's source but did not share the information with Ministry of Environment.
"Why was there no synchronization between officials," the mayor said, but did not reveal the exact nature of the substance.
Meanwhile, a central Israel resident suffering from a disease requiring chemotherapy was told by IDF officials that the substance which caused the foul odor was used in the framework of a military drill in Ramat Gan, just north of Tel Aviv.
The resident, Yael, recorded her conversation with an IDF Home Front command representative who revealed the information, and later spoke to police officials who said the material was spread by the Navy. However, officials refused to tell her what the substance was.
Yael, who was concerned about heading out for fear the smell could endanger her given her illness, spoke with various officials throughout the day, and shared the recordings with Ynet.
"The smell resulted from an IDF Home Front Command drill in Ramat Gan" an IDF representative told her. "This drill is being held by a certain Home Front unit, and we don't know precisely what gas is being used."
Yet now that the press is asking precisely what was involved in the alleged "drill," Israeli officials are being suspiciously close-mouthed, claiming the cause of the smell is "unknown" and officially denying that a military drill is involved. Later, they told the news organization Haaretz that a "ground disinfection operation" was to blame. Though YNet News has not released the recording of officials admitting the smell came from a military drill, suspicions loom.
More troubling still, Business Insider reports that "many are wondering if the drill could be linked to a forthcoming strike on Iran." Noises about this possibility have been floating around the media for some time, and if this mysterious gas is indeed evidence that Israel is conducting military drills in preparation for action, it would seem to indicate that those noises might be getting more plausible. Still, wondering about something doesn't make it so, and unless hard evidence emerges to suggest that this smell was linked to a drill specifically designed for offensive strikes, we're going to give the rumor of Israel attacking Iran a wide berth.