Israeli pipeline firm charged for massive 2014 oil leak
The December 2014 Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) leak, which took place just north of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, is considered by many as Israel's worst ecological disaster.
According to the indictment, which implicated the company as well as four of its former employees, five million litres of crude burst from the pipe due to negligence during maintenance work.
Animals and plants were killed and water sources and soil contaminated, with the worst-hit area spanning over 144,000 square metres, the charge sheet said.
EAPC had already agreed to pay 100 million shekels ($32 million, 27 million euros) damages in a 2019 lawsuit toward rehabilitating the site.
On Tuesday, the company and the four employees were charged with water and land contamination, resulting from their negligence, according to the indictment.
The EAPC called the spill an "abnormal event" that was a result of "specific shortcomings".
"Since the incident, EAPC has drawn conclusions, changed procedures and taken many measures to rehabilitate the land," a statement from the company said.
The indictment came as Israel's top court was preparing to debate a petition challenging the legality of a recently inked agreement that would see EAPC serving as a conduit for oil from the United Arab Emirates to Europe.
The deal, which followed the UAE and Israel establishing diplomatic ties last year, would see Gulf oil brought to Eilat by tanker, than moved by pipeline through mainland Israel to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon, from where it would be shipped to Europe.
Israeli environmentalist groups petitioned the supreme court, claiming the deal between EAPC and Israeli-Emirati company called MED-RED Land Bridge Ltd did not receive the sufficient ministerial scrutiny and approvals necessary.
The court was waiting to receive the response of the state, which had requested its third delay in submitting it on Tuesday.
The deal was meanwhile facing obstacles from Israel's environmental protection ministry, which in July announced that the risk assessment conducted by EAPC ahead of implementing the deal was lacking.