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Israel expands probe into the oil spill that spread to neighbouring Lebanon Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Israel expands probe into the oil spill that spread to neighbouring Lebanon

Volunteers clean tar from a beach in Lebanon's Tyre [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 March, 2021

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Ten vessels are under investigation as possible culprits.
Israel has expanded its probe into an offshore oil spill that has wreaked havoc on the Mediterranean coast as far north as Lebanon.

The investigation last week ruled out a Greek ship as the origin of the spill, for which clean-up efforts are still ongoing in Israel and neighbouring Lebanon.

The spill, which has been described as one of Israel's worst ever ecological disasters, has washed up around a thousand tonnes of tar on the Israeli coastline and at least two tonnes in southern Lebanon.

The clean-up operation could take months or even years.

"We will not ignore this environmental crime and will take all measures to locate the criminal," said Gila Gamliel, Israel's Environmental Protection Minister.

Ten ships are currently under investigation as potential culprits, the ministry said on Sunday.

Researchers from Jerusalem's Hebrew University found the source of the pollution was likely crude oil, meaning the source of the spill was probably the result of a tanker spill or the transfer of oil from one ship to another.

The spill poses great danger to marine life along the Mediterranean coastline and has already been linked to the deaths of six baby sea turtles and a young fin whale.

Jonathan Aikhenbaum, director of Greenpeace Israel, is among environmental activists who are pointing to the devastating effects of the spill to agitate against planned energy infrastructure.

Campaigners have warned that an Israeli-Emirati oil pipeline could pose a similar threat to the unique coral reefs of the Red Sea.

"We must take all the lessons from this crime and bring to justice those who committed it, and also ensure that plans for construction of dangerous oil infrastructures be canceled immediately, to prevent such incidents in the coming years," Aikhenbaum was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.

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